Definition of capable in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈkāpəb(ə)l/


1 (capable of doing something) Having the ability, fitness, or quality necessary to do or achieve a specified thing: I’m quite capable of taking care of myself the aircraft is capable of flying 5,000 miles nonstop
More example sentences
  • I think we all felt we were a good side but not in our wildest drams did we think we were capable of what we have achieved.
  • The evidence is that some boys are failing to achieve the results of which they are capable.
  • What is good is that England now strive not just to win but to play the cricket of which they know themselves capable.
1.1Open to or admitting of something: the strange events are capable of rational explanation
More example sentences
  • Neither in effect is capable of being measured by the strict rules of accountancy.
  • It's insanely dense too, with each scene capable of being read in any number of ways.
2Able to achieve efficiently whatever one has to do; competent: she looked enthusiastic and capable a highly capable man
More example sentences
  • He was a very capable surgeon and able to undertake all duties with skill and caring.
  • He was in fact a highly capable student and so was well able to complete his tasks ahead of others.
  • Teams of highly trained and capable engineers were recruited into the railway industry.
competent, able, efficient, effective, proficient, accomplished, adept, handy, experienced, skillful, skilled, talented, gifted
informal useful


Mid 16th century (in the sense 'able to take in', physically or mentally): from French, from late Latin capabilis, from Latin capere 'take or hold'.

  • The first recorded sense of this was ‘able to take in’, physically or mentally. It comes from Latin capere ‘take or hold’ which is found in many other English words including: accept (Late Middle English) from ad- ‘to’ and capere; anticipation (Late Middle English) ‘acting or taking in advance’; capacity (Late Middle English) ‘ability to hold’; caption (Late Middle English) originally an act of capture; captive (Late Middle English); catch (Middle English); chase (Middle English); conceive (Middle English) literally ‘take together’; except (Late Middle English) ‘take out of’; incapacity (early 17th century) inability to hold; intercept (Late Middle English) to take between; perceive (Middle English) to hold entirely; prince; receive (Middle English) ‘take back’; susceptible (early 17th century) literally ‘that can be taken from below’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ca·pa·ble

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.