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[kuh-pas-i-tee] /kəˈpæs ɪ ti/
noun, plural capacities.
the ability to receive or contain:
This hotel has a large capacity.
the maximum amount or number that can be received or contained; cubic contents; volume:
The inn is filled to capacity. The gasoline tank has a capacity of 20 gallons.
power of receiving impressions, knowledge, etc.; mental ability:
the capacity to learn calculus.
actual or potential ability to perform, yield, or withstand:
He has a capacity for hard work. The capacity of the oil well was 150 barrels a day. She has the capacity to go two days without sleep.
quality or state of being susceptible to a given treatment or action:
Steel has a high capacity to withstand pressure.
position; function; role:
He served in the capacity of legal adviser.
legal qualification.
  1. capacitance.
  2. maximum possible output.
reaching maximum capacity:
a capacity audience; a capacity crowd.
Origin of capacity
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English capacite < Middle French < Latin capācitāt- (stem of capācitās), equivalent to capāci-, stem of capāx roomy (cap(ere) to hold + -āci- adj. suffix) + -tāt- -ty2
Can be confused
ability, capacity.
2. dimensions, amplitude. 3. endowment, talent, gifts. 4. aptitude, adequacy, competence, capability. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for capacity
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A great portion of his strength lay in his capacity for deception.

    The Child of Pleasure Gabriele D'Annunzio
  • It was plain that her education in that capacity had not begun.

    Deerbrook Harriet Martineau
  • It was numbers and mobility that determined flotilla types rather than armament or capacity for sea-endurance.

    Some Principles of Maritime Strategy Julian Stafford Corbett
  • The capacity of bodies to radiate and to absorb differ considerably.

    Aether and Gravitation William George Hooper
  • The more exalted the character and the soul, the greater is the capacity of love, and the deeper its fervor.

British Dictionary definitions for capacity


noun (pl) -ties
the ability or power to contain, absorb, or hold
the amount that can be contained; volume: a capacity of six gallons
  1. the maximum amount something can contain or absorb (esp in the phrase filled to capacity)
  2. (as modifier): a capacity crowd
the ability to understand or learn; aptitude; capability: he has a great capacity for Greek
the ability to do or produce (often in the phrase at capacity): the factory's output was not at capacity
a specified position or function: he was employed in the capacity of manager
a measure of the electrical output of a piece of apparatus such as a motor, generator, or accumulator
(electronics) a former name for capacitance
  1. the number of words or characters that can be stored in a particular storage device
  2. the range of numbers that can be processed in a register
the bit rate that a communication channel or other system can carry
legal competence: the capacity to make a will
Word Origin
C15: from Old French capacite, from Latin capācitās, from capāx spacious, from capere to take
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for capacity

early 15c., from Middle French capacité "ability to hold" (15c.), from Latin capacitatem (nominative capacitas) "breadth, capacity, capability of holding much," noun of state from capax (genitive capacis) "able to hold much," from capere "to take" (see capable). Meaning "largest audience a place can hold" is 1908.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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capacity in Medicine

capacity ca·pac·i·ty (kə-pās'ĭ-tē)

  1. The measure of potential cubic contents of a cavity or receptacle; volume.

  2. Ability to perform or produce; capability.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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capacity in Technology

The maximum possible data transfer rate of a communications channel under ideal conditions. The total capacity of a channel may be shared between several independent data streams using some kind of multiplexing, in which case, each stream's data rate may be limited to a fixed fraction of the total capacity.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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