1. The quality of being able to do something, especially the physical, mental, financial, or legal power to accomplish something.
2. A natural or acquired skill or talent.
3. The quality of being suitable for or receptive to a specified treatment; capacity: the ability of a computer to be configured for use as a file server. See Usage Note at able.
[Middle English abilite, from Old French habilite, from Latin habilits, from habilis, handy; see able.]
Synonyms: ability, capacity, faculty, talent, skill, competence, aptitude These nouns denote qualities that enable a person to achieve or accomplish something. Ability is the mental or physical power to do something: To make a fortune some assistance from fate is essential. Ability alone is insufficient (Ihara Saikaku). Capacity refers to the potential for acquiring that power: The capability [women] have shown in the realm of higher education, their achievements in the business world, their capacity for organization . . . have been a revelation (Susan B. Anthony). Faculty denotes an inherent ability: My lawyer has a faculty for detecting hypocrisy. Talent emphasizes inborn ability, especially in the arts: There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all the virtues are of no avail (Aldous Huxley). Skill stresses ability acquired or developed through experience: The intellect, character and skill possessed by any man are the product of certain original tendencies and the training which they have received (Edward L. Thorndike). Competence suggests the ability to do something satisfactorily but not necessarily outstandingly: The violinist played the concerto with unquestioned competence but limited imagination. Aptitude implies inherent capacity for learning, understanding, or performing: She handled her brushes with a certain ease and freedom which came, not from long and close acquaintance with them, but from a natural aptitude (Kate Chopin).
ability /blti/ n.-ties1 [U] skill: She has great ability at playing the piano.2 [C] power to do s.t.: He has many abilities, but he doesnt always use them.