Hypertext Webster Gateway: "ability"

From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) (web1913)

Ability \A*bil"i*ty\, n.; pl. {Abilities}. [F. habilet['e],
earlier spelling habilit['e] (with silent h), L. habilitas
aptitude, ability, fr. habilis apt. See {Able}.]
The quality or state of being able; power to perform, whether
physical, moral, intellectual, conventional, or legal;
capacity; skill or competence in doing; sufficiency of
strength, skill, resources, etc.; -- in the plural, faculty,

Then the disciples, every man according to his ability,
determined to send relief unto the brethren. --Acts xi.

Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need
pruning by study. --Bacon.

The public men of England, with much of a peculiar kind
of ability. --Macaulay.

Syn: Capacity; talent; cleverness; faculty; capability;
efficiency; aptitude; aptness; address; dexterity;

Usage: {Ability}, {Capacity}. These words come into
comparison when applied to the higher intellectual
powers. Ability has reference to the active exercise
of our faculties. It implies not only native vigor of
mind, but that ease and promptitude of execution which
arise from mental training. Thus, we speak of the
ability with which a book is written, an argument
maintained, a negotiation carried on, etc. It always
something to be done, and the power of doing it.
Capacity has reference to the receptive powers. In its
higher exercises it supposes great quickness of
apprehension and breadth of intellect, with an
uncommon aptitude for acquiring and retaining
knowledge. Hence it carries with it the idea of
resources and undeveloped power. Thus we speak of the
extraordinary capacity of such men as Lord Bacon,
Blaise Pascal, and Edmund Burke. ``Capacity,'' says H.
Taylor, ``is requisite to devise, and ability to
execute, a great enterprise.'' The word abilities, in
the plural, embraces both these qualities, and denotes
high mental endowments.

From WordNet (r) 1.7 (wn)

n 1: the quality of being able to perform; a quality that permits
or facilitates achievement or accomplishment [ant: {inability}]
2: possession of the qualities (especially mental qualities)
required to do something or get something done; "danger
heightened his powers of discrimination" [syn: {power}]
[ant: {inability}]

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