Definition of ability in English:



  • 1[in singular, with infinitive] Possession of the means or skill to do something.

    ‘the manager had lost his ability to motivate the players’
    ‘they'll examine your ability to pay’
    • ‘Those countries first have to have access to knowledge and the ability to use knowledge.’
    • ‘He has pace, skill, an ability to shoot with both feet, and incredible shot accuracy.’
    • ‘That gave them a chance and all they lacked was the ability to dominate less experienced opponents.’
    • ‘All you are paying for is the ability to say that you've seen it early.’
    • ‘But to my mind the most important thing by far is the ability to motivate and get the best out of people.’
    • ‘The one thing we need right now is enthusiasm and the ability to motivate a squad.’
    • ‘He possesses that rare ability to unlock defences to break a stalemate.’
    • ‘He has skills and knowledge and an ability to work all over the world that the older men simply don't have.’
    • ‘Many sources cited in the book pay tribute to his ability to include others, to lead.’
    • ‘I'm convinced that he possesses the individual technical ability to be in the France team.’
    • ‘He has professional experience and has the ability to serve in any controlling body.’
    • ‘Mario Jardel has the potential and the ability to become a Bolton Wanderers hero.’
    • ‘Making soup requires very little in the way of culinary skills apart from an ability to chop vegetables.’
    • ‘Finally, a more equal system of registration fees should be introduced, based on the ability to pay.’
    • ‘It was, in its own way, a triumph: the message of a voiceless woman who never lost her ability to speak.’
    • ‘Perhaps, but how many have charisma and the ability to motivate and inspire players?’
    • ‘You possess the ability to back your strong imagination with will and action.’
    • ‘The defendant denied that, and said that Michael worked and had the ability to pay.’
    • ‘The boy possesses the uncanny ability to eat like an elephant and remain as skinny as a stick.’
    • ‘Britain should adopt a graduated income tax based on the ability to pay.’
    capacity, capability, potential, potentiality, power, faculty, aptness, facility, propensity, wherewithal, means, preparedness
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  • 2Talent, skill, or proficiency in a particular area.

    ‘a man of exceptional ability’
    ‘students of all abilities’
    • ‘His only interests were games - he was of average ability in football and cricket.’
    • ‘This is the sort of film that doesn't really require much acting ability.’
    • ‘I'd never seen her in a show before, so I had no idea the extent of her ability.’
    • ‘His pace and score-taking ability impressed many in the final games of the season.’
    • ‘His mother was a woman of great ability, balanced and thoughtful.’
    • ‘It is a mark of her ability that the player has managed to remain in the world's top five despite the injuries.’
    • ‘He's got pace, he's aggressive, and for a big lad he's got some ability.’
    • ‘She utilized her resources to the best of her ability.’
    • ‘Does anyone think leadership ability can be quantified?’
    • ‘This indicates that differences in the rate of accumulation of economic knowledge due to natural ability do not exist.’
    • ‘The company is part of an empire with proven marketing ability, especially in selling music.’
    talent, skill, expertise, expertness, adeptness, aptitude, skilfulness, prowess, mastery, artistry, calibre, accomplishment
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  • to the best of one's ability

    • As well as one can.

      ‘Conrad must do his job to the best of his abilities’
      • ‘Enjoy your Monday - to the best of your ability anyhow.’
      • ‘All you can do is train and play to the best of your ability.’
      • ‘But if you do, it should be because you've analyzed the data, to the best of your ability and without wishful thinking; not because you want it to be so.’
      • ‘A firm believer in God and divinity, she says: ‘Do you work to the best of your ability and leave the rest to Him.’’
      • ‘The following is, to the best of my ability, a recreation of the factual debate between two of the presenters who shall go unnamed.’
      • ‘My only advice for my sister was to use her military training to the best of her ability and stay strong.’
      • ‘You defend your client to the best of your ability.’
      • ‘And to the best of your knowledge as you're getting from the airport and maybe the tower, the aircraft right now is simply burning fuel?’
      • ‘But morale has remained high - as a pro player it should never be difficult to maintain your enthusiasm because you're paid to go out there and perform to the best of your ability.’
      • ‘Plant two trees each, and thirdly, do your duty to the best of your ability.’
      • ‘Unless both sides feel that you are representing their interest to the best of your ability, there is no possible way to have any kind of success.’
      • ‘You were placed there to correct the situation to the best of your ability, and either your ability or your execution came up short.’
      • ‘In order to do the thing, to the best of your ability and give you the flexibility for the uncertainty that always comes about in combat.’
      • ‘If you're good at what you do, you have the right motivation and you do it to the best of your ability, people respect you and will work with you.’
      • ‘If you can't, manage them to the best of your ability.’
      • ‘We believe everything is OK as long as you don't hurt anyone, to the best of your definition of hurt, and to the best of your knowledge.’
      • ‘He puts so much into everything he does that those around him are inspired to perform to the best of their ability: there is such a strong desire not to let him down.’
      • ‘I think understanding when to play the exact record at the right time leads to that energy and also practicing, practicing at home and making sure that you know your material and you're able to perform it to the best of your ability.’
      • ‘Hanley's advice to anyone who wants to succeed in life is simple: ‘In sport, in business, in life you have to perform to the best of your ability and give everything.’’
      • ‘First, let me say that my story happened quite awhile ago and I shall try to the best of my ability to be as factual, and explicit as my memory will permit.’


Late Middle English: from Old French ablete, from Latin habilitas, from habilis able.