Difference Between Ability and Capability

The basic definition of either can be seen as pretty simple and straight forward, and even similar to each other. But it is only on a much deeper look that one can find the differences between these two words.


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The standard definition of ability given in any dictionary is the quality or caliber to do any task be it mentally, physically, or otherwise.

The definition of capability, on the other hand, can be defined as one’s ability to do something.

Both are used in reference to talents, skills, or even the expertise of individuals or organizations.

Ability vs Capability

The difference between ability and capability is that capability is used in terms of organization or institution while “ability” is more used in reference to individuals.

Ability vs Capability

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonAbilityCapability
MeaningIt is the quality or caliber to do any task be it mentally, physically, or otherwiseThe potential or capacity to do a task.
ExampleEducation is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.The Number our envious Persons, confirmation our capability
OriginsOlder in origin.Newer compared to ability.
UsageGenerally used in reference to individuals. Used in reference to an organization. 

What is Ability?

From a very young age, one is taught to be “able”, to have the willpower and capacity to pursue what they set their heart on, irrespective of what the task may be.

Every individual is encouraged to tap into their inner potential or ability to do a task that may seem impossible at the first glance.

Though there is not any strict definition of the word, in the most basic sense it is the capacity to achieve.

The word ability has Latin origins and comes from the word “habilis” which basically means “to be able”. The ability of any individual can be divided into three broad categories which are mental, physical, and psychometric. 

Mental ability consists of the intellectual capacity or wits of any individual, these range from verbal comprehension,

the ability to under and process words, and how they connect to each other, number aptitude, which is the ability to do calculations accurately.

Followed by Inductive reasoning which basically is the capacity of the practical application of theory and ideas learned in books.

Two of the most important mental abilities are memory and perceptual speed, which refers to the imaginative abilities of an individual.

Physical abilities include Dynamic strength, Trunk strength, Static strength, Extent, and Dynamic flexibility.

Two of the most important physical abilities are equilibrium, which is to maintain a steady-state of the body,

it helps us to walk and essentially perform all tasks and the other is Gross body coordination which as the name suggests is how one is able to coordinate their different parts of the body to facilitate in their movements and so on.

Psychomotor Abilities are more niche compared to the other though not unknown like Manual and finger dexterity like being able to control and coordinate the movement of small objects.

Others include aiming and reaction time, for example being able to throw an arrow.


What is Capability?

Capability is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as the quality of being capable, having the aptitude or fitness to do something. This is mostly related to organizational capabilities and that too varies from organizations to organizations.

However, there are a few common terms between them all like communication, organizational, professional capabilities. 

In communication capabilities to identify and address communication within the company and their clients.

To have smooth communications between the different departments, to communicate effectively across all the social media platforms, to form strategies about how to improve on the same. 

With respect to organizational capabilities which is to enhance and build the reputation of the organization, to build a better relationship within the company, and stakeholders as well.

Professional capabilities include providing better counsel and leadership to the company workers. Also, have a smooth functioning, ethical, and harmonious company. 

Not just this in the case of an individual it varies leadership, learning, collaborative capacity, innovations, communications, teamwork, integrity, and so on.

Any company or organization hiring an individual, always look for capability or potential.

as it represents how an individual can grow and learn while with the organization which will be beneficial to both the company and the individual alike.


Main Differences Between Ability and Capability

  1. The basic meaning and usage, capability implies potential, whereas ability implies a possibility. 
  2. In terms of usage, “ability” is usually used in reference to individuals while “capability”  is generally used with reference to organizations.
  3. With respect to the history of the words, “ability” is the older of the two.
  4. Ability pertains to an individual, so the general types of it are mental, physical, and psychometric abilities. In the case of capabilities, they are professional, communicational, and organizational.
  5. For example, someone can have the ability to understand and process a book. While for capability, someone can have the capability to read the same book but maybe they are not trying.
Difference Between Ability and Capability


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197101904452
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019850116301821
  3. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2008.143651
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