Glossary of Medical Terms

Our online medical glossary of medical terms and definitions includes definitions for terms related to treatment, and general medicine


The characteristic or state of being able; strength to perform, whether physical, moral, intellectual, conventional, or legal; ability; skill or competence in doing; sufficiency of power, skill, resources, etc.; in the plural, faculty, talent. "Then the disciples, each man according to his capacity, certain to send relief unto the brethren." (Acts xi. 29) "Natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study." (Bacon) "The popular men of England, with many of a peculiar kind of ability." (Macaulay) Ability and ability come into collation when applied to the higher intellectual powers. Capacity has reference to the active exercice 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 say of the capacity with which a book is written, an argument maintained, a negotiation carried on, etc. It always something to be done, and the strength 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. The word abilities, in the plural, embraces both these qualities, and denotes tall mental endowments. See: able. Synonym: Ability, talent, cleverness, faculty, capability, efficiency, aptitude, aptness, address, dexterity, skill. Origin: F. Habilete, earlier spelling habilite (with silent h), L. Habilitas aptitude, capacity, fr. Habilis apt.
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