See more synonyms for ability on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural a·bil·i·ties.
  1. power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.
  2. competence in an activity or occupation because of one's skill, training, or other qualification: the ability to sing well.
  3. abilities, talents; special skills or aptitudes: Composing music is beyond his abilities.

Origin of ability

1350–1400; Middle English (h)abilite < Middle French < Latin habilitās aptitude, equivalent to habili(s) handy (see able) + -tās -ty2; replacing Middle English ablete < Old French < Latin, as above
Related formssub·a·bil·i·ty, noun, plural sub·a·bil·i·ties.
Can be confusedability capacity

Synonyms for ability

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Synonym study

2. Ability, faculty, talent denote qualifications or powers. Ability is a general word for power, native or acquired, enabling one to do things well: a person of great ability; ability in mathematics. Faculty denotes a natural ability for a particular kind of action: a faculty of saying what he means. Talent is often used to mean a native ability or aptitude in a special field: a talent for music or art.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for abilities

Contemporary Examples of abilities

Historical Examples of abilities

  • Nothing is so tiresome to a man of any taste or abilities as what every body knows.

  • All their abilities should scent of piety and the fear of God.

  • In Calendar's driver, however, he had an adversary of abilities by no means to be despised.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • You are too doubtful of your own abilities, honest Joseph; that's your fault.

    Clarissa, Volume 3 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Your abilities, my Imogen, appear to be of the very first description.


    William Godwin

British Dictionary definitions for abilities


noun plural -ties
  1. possession of the qualities required to do something; necessary skill, competence, or powerthe ability to cope with a problem
  2. considerable proficiency; natural capabilitya man of ability
  3. (plural) special talents

Word Origin for ability

C14: from Old French from Latin habilitās aptitude, handiness, from habilis able
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for abilities



late 14c., from Old French ableté "expert at handling (something)," from Latin habilitatem (nominative habilitas) "aptitude," noun of quality from habilis "easy to manage, handy" (see able). One case where a Latin silent -h- failed to make a return in English (despite efforts of 16c.-17c. scholars); see H.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper