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a general word for power, native or acquired, enabling one to do things well: an ability for math
Not to be confused with:
capacity – actual or potential ability to perform or withstand: a capacity for hard work
faculty – a natural ability for a particular kind of action: a faculty for choosing the right friends
talent – native ability or aptitude in a special field: a talent for art or music


n. pl. a·bil·i·ties
a. The quality of being able to do something, especially the physical, mental, financial, or legal power to accomplish something.
b. A skill, talent, or capacity: a student of many abilities.
2. The quality of being suitable for or receptive to a specified treatment: 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 habilitās, from habilis, handy; see able.]


n, pl -ties
1. possession of the qualities required to do something; necessary skill, competence, or power: the ability to cope with a problem.
2. considerable proficiency; natural capability: a man of ability.
3. (plural) special talents
[C14: from Old French from Latin habilitās aptitude, handiness, from habilis able]


(əˈbɪl ɪ ti)

n., pl. -ties.
1. power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, or financially.
2. competence based on natural skill, training, or other qualification.
3. abilities, talents; special skills or aptitudes.
[1350–1400; Middle English (h)abilite < Middle French < Latin habilitās aptitude =habili(s) handy (see able) + -tās -ty2]
syn: ability, faculty, talent denote power or capacity to do something. ability is the general word for a natural or acquired capacity to do things; it usu. implies doing them well: a leader of great ability; ability in mathematics. faculty denotes a natural or acquired ability for a particular kind of action: a faculty for putting people at ease. talent usu. denotes an exceptional natural ability or aptitude in a particular field: a talent for music.


a combination of -able and -ity, found on nouns corresponding to adjectives in -able: capability.
[Middle English -abilite « Latin -ābilitās]




  1. Able to absorb punishment as open buds absorb the dew —Grantland Rice
  2. The abilities of man must fall short on one side or other, like too scanty a blanket —Sir William Temple
  3. The ability to make a great individual fortune … is a sort of sublimated instinct in a way like the instinct of a rat-terrier for smelling out hidden rats —Irvin S. Cobb
  4. Being creative without talent is a bit like being a perfectionist and not being able to do anything right —Jane Agner
  5. Chose [people] with swift skill, like fruit tested for ripeness with a pinch —Paul Theroux
  6. (My wife … ) cooks like Escoffier on wheels —Moss Hart
  7. Cuts like a saw through soft pine through the chatter of freeloaders, time-wasting delegations —Stephen Longstreet

    In Longstreet’s novel, Ambassador, from which this is extracted, the efficiency tactics are diplomatic.

  8. Efficient as a good deer rifle —Bruce DeSilva
  9. Functioned as smoothly as a hospital kitchen —Laurie Colwin
  10. Resourceful and energetic as a street dog —James Mills
  11. Having communists draft the law for the most capitalist society on earth is like having a blind man guide you through the Louvre museum —Mark Faber, Wall Street Journal, June 19, 1986

    Faber’s simile pertained to the basic law that will govern Hong Kong in future.

  12. His [Brendan Sullivan’s] management (of Oliver North) is like one of those pictures that museum directors settle for labeling “Workshop of Veronese” because the hand of the master is not there for certain but his touch and teaching inarguably are —Murray Kempton, New York Post, December 12, 1986

    Kempton’s simile describes the legal abilities of a member in the Edward Bennett Williams law firm, representing Colonel North during the Iran weapons scandal.

  13. I can walk like an ox, run like a fox, swim like an eel … make love like a mad bull —David Crockett, speech to Congress
  14. Instinct as sure as sight —Edgar Lee Masters
  15. Native ability without education is like a tree without fruit —Aristippus
  16. Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study —Francis Bacon
  17. Played bridge like an inspired card sharp —Marjory Stoneman Douglas
  18. To see him [Chief Justice Hughes] preside was like witnessing Toscanini lead an orchestra —Justice Felix Frankfurter
  19. Skilled … like a mischievous and thieving animal —Émile Zola
  20. Skillful as jugglers —Daphne du Maurier
  21. Talent is like a faucet. While it is open, one must write (paint, etc.) —Jean Anouilh, New York Times, October 2, 1960
  22. Talent, like beauty, to be pardoned, must be obscure and unostentatious —Marguerite, Countess Blessington
  23. You must work at the talent as a sculptor works at stone, chiselling, plotting, rounding, edging and making perfect —Dylan Thomas



all is fish that comes to his net A proverbial phrase describing the luck of one for whom nothing ever goes awry because of a seemingly innate ability to turn everything to profit. Most fishermen expect to discover undesirable animals or debris in their nets, but the fortuitous fisherman’s net overflows with valuable fish only. The expression is used of one with an extraordinary capacity to develop invariably successful schemes and make consistently lucrative financial investments.

green thumb An above-average ability to grow plants; the knack of successfully cultivating and propagating plants. This phrase and its variant green fingers date from the early 1900s. A “green thumb” is like a magic touch which encourages rapid growth. Although the phrase is usually heard in the context of gardening, it can apply to any innate ability to make things grow and prosper.

“Success with money is often accidental,” she sighed. “One needs ‘green fingers’ to make it grow.” (Daily Telegraph, April 26, 1969)

keep one’s hand in To keep in practice, to dabble in, to maintain one’s proficiency in a certain activity. The expression usually implies sporadic or intermittent interest and activity.

know one’s beans See KNOWLEDGE.

the Midas touch An uncanny ability to make money; entrepreneurial expertise. Midas, legendary king of Phrygia, was divinely granted the power to transform anything he touched to gold. The gods relieved Midas of his power when the king realized that everything he touched, including food and his daughter, changed to gold. Still in general use, this expression often describes the moneymaking abilities of an entrepreneur.

Picasso, with his Midas touch, has at first try made the lino-cut a more dignified medium. (Times, July, 1960)

play a straight bat To know what you are doing, to know your business. This Briticism comes from the game of cricket.

to the manner born See STATUS.



Do not confuse ability with capability and capacity.

1. 'ability'

You often use ability to say that someone can do something well.

He had remarkable ability as a musician.
...the ability to bear hardship.
2. 'capability'

A person's capability is the amount of work they can do and how well they can do it.

...a job that was beyond the capability of one man.
...the director's ideas of the capability of the actor.
3. 'capacity'

If someone has a particular capacity, a capacity for something, or a capacity to do something, they have the qualities required to do it. Capacity is a more formal word than ability.

...their capacity for hard work.
...his capacity to see the other person's point of view.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.ability - the quality of being able to performability - the quality of being able to perform; a quality that permits or facilitates achievement or accomplishment
adaptability - the ability to change (or be changed) to fit changed circumstances
quality - an essential and distinguishing attribute of something or someone; "the quality of mercy is not strained"--Shakespeare
sensitiveness, sensitivity - the ability to respond to affective changes in your interpersonal environment
competence, competency - the quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually
form - an ability to perform well; "he was at the top of his form"; "the team was off form last night"
interoperability - (computer science) the ability to exchange and use information (usually in a large heterogeneous network made up of several local area networks)
magical ability, magical power - an ability to perform magic
Midas touch - an ability to make and manage large amounts of money
penetration - the ability to make way into or through something; "the greater penetration of the new projectiles will result in greater injuries"
physical ability - the ability to perform some physical act; contrasting with mental ability
contractility - the capability or quality of shrinking or contracting, especially by muscle fibers and even some other forms of living matter
capability, capableness - the quality of being capable -- physically or intellectually or legally; "he worked to the limits of his capability"
totipotence, totipotency - the ability of a cell to give rise to unlike cells and so to develop a new organism or part; "animal cells lose their totipotency at an early stage in embryonic development"
immunocompetence - the ability to develop an immune response following exposure to an antigen
inability, unfitness - lacking the power to perform
2.ability - possession of the qualities (especially mental qualities) required to do something or get something doneability - possession of the qualities (especially mental qualities) required to do something or get something done; "danger heightened his powers of discrimination"
cognition, knowledge, noesis - the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning
know-how - the (technical) knowledge and skill required to do something
leadership - the ability to lead; "he believed that leadership can be taught"
intelligence - the ability to comprehend; to understand and profit from experience
aptitude - inherent ability
bilingualism - the ability to speak two languages colloquially
mental ability, capacity - the power to learn or retain knowledge; in law, the ability to understand the facts and significance of your behavior
creative thinking, creativeness, creativity - the ability to create
originality - the ability to think and act independently
science, skill - ability to produce solutions in some problem domain; "the skill of a well-trained boxer"; "the sweet science of pugilism"
acquirement, skill, accomplishment, attainment, acquisition - an ability that has been acquired by training
hand - ability; "he wanted to try his hand at singing"
superior skill - more than ordinary ability
faculty, mental faculty, module - one of the inherent cognitive or perceptual powers of the mind
inability - lack of ability (especially mental ability) to do something



1. Physical, mental, financial, or legal power to perform:
2. Natural or acquired facility in a specific activity:
Informal: know-how.
قُدْرَةمَقْدِرَةمَهَارَة، مَعْرِفَة
geta, hæfnikunnátta, færni
khả năng


[əˈbɪlɪtɪ] N
1. (= capacity) → aptitud f, capacidad f
ability to paysolvencia f, recursos mpl
his ability in Frenchsu aptitud para el francés
to the best of my abilitylo mejor que pueda or sepa
my ability to do it depends onel que yo lo haga depende de ...
2. (= talent) a boy of abilityun chico de talento
he has great abilitytiene un gran talento (for para) abilitiestalento m, dotes fpl


[əˈbɪlɪti] n
(= capability) → capacité f, aptitude f
abilities (= competence) → compétences fpl
one's ability to do sth → sa capacité de faire qch, son aptitude à faire qch
to have the ability to do sth → être capable de faire qch
to have the ability to see → être capable de voir
to the best of my ability, to the best of my abilities → de mon mieux
(= skill, talent) → talent m
a footballer of great ability → un footballeur talentueux


nFähigkeit f; ability to pay/hearZahlungs-/Hörfähigkeit f; to the best of my abilitynach (besten) Kräften; (with mental activities) → so gut ich es kann; a man of great abilityein sehr fähiger Mann; his ability in Germanseine Fähigkeiten im Deutschen; she has great abilitysie ist ausgesprochen fähig


[əˈbɪlɪtɪ] ncapacità f inv, abilità f inv abilities nplcapacità fpl, doti fpl
to the best of my ability → con il massimo impegno
a person of great abilities → una persona molto dotata


(əˈbiləti) plural aˈbilities noun
1. the power, knowledge etc to do something. I shall do the job to the best of my ability.
2. a skill. a man of many abilities.


قُدْرَة schopnost evne Fähigkeit ικανότητα aptitud kyky capacité sposobnost abilità 能力 능력 vermogen evne zdolność capacidade, habilidade способность förmåga ความสามารถ yetenek khả năng 能力


n. habilidad, aptitud; talento, capacidad.


n (pl -ties) capacidad f, habilidad f; — to drive capacidad para manejar
References in classic literature ?
They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.
I modestly declared myself to be quite unequal to the task imposed upon me--and I privately felt, all the time, that I was quite clever enough to perform it, if I only gave my own abilities a fair chance.
There I have sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since; seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, as quoted above--namely, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it.
I am, indeed, provoked at the artifice of this unprincipled woman; what stronger proof of her dangerous abilities can be given than this perversion of Reginald's judgment, which when he entered the house was so decidedly against her!
She loved Anne better than she loved her own abilities; and when the awkwardness of the beginning was over, found little hardship in attaching herself as a mother to the man who was securing the happiness of her other child.
She has abilities, however, as well as affections; and it is now a doubtful point whether his cunning, or hers, may finally carry the day; whether, after preventing her from being the wife of Sir Walter, he may not be wheedled and caressed at last into making her the wife of Sir William.
Let Virginia be contrasted with North Carolina, Pennsylvania with Connecticut, or Maryland with New Jersey, and we shall be convinced that the respective abilities of those States, in relation to revenue, bear little or no analogy to their comparative stock in lands or to their comparative population.
The visitor was coming to inquire about a rumour he'd heard regarding the three abilities.
Compared to other champions, Qiyana has potentially the most abilities for&nbsp;one character.
It is recommended that future studies should identify the factors affecting life quality and self-care abilities of women, offer services aimed at increasing the life quality and self-care of women in the post-partum period, and include different groups apart from our inclusion criteria.
At age 10 or 11, participants took cognitive tests that measured their verbal skills, reasoning, and general cognitive abilities. Throughout their 30s and 40s, they were also asked questions about their leadership activity at work, such as whether they supervised any employees and, if so, how many.
With the introduction of AutoCAD technical drawing programs and now 3D printing, learners can use 3D printed models to develop their spatial abilities in technology and engineering curricula.