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.
maximum possible output.
reaching maximum capacity: a capacity audience; a capacity crowd.

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

ability, capacity.

2. dimensions, amplitude. 3. endowment, talent, gifts. 4. aptitude, adequacy, competence, capability. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
capacity (kəˈpæsɪtɪ)
n , pl -ties
1.  the ability or power to contain, absorb, or hold
2.  the amount that can be contained; volume: a capacity of six gallons
3.  a.  the maximum amount something can contain or absorb (esp in the phrase filled to capacity)
 b.  (as modifier): a capacity crowd
4.  the ability to understand or learn; aptitude; capability: he has a great capacity for Greek
5.  the ability to do or produce (often in the phrase at capacity): the factory's output was not at capacity
6.  a specified position or function: he was employed in the capacity of manager
7.  a measure of the electrical output of a piece of apparatus such as a motor, generator, or accumulator
8.  electronics a former name for capacitance
9.  computing
 a.  the number of words or characters that can be stored in a particular storage device
 b.  the range of numbers that can be processed in a register
10.  the bit rate that a communication channel or other system can carry
11.  legal competence: the capacity to make a will
[C15: from Old French capacite, from Latin capācitās, from capāx spacious, from capere to take]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1480, from M.Fr. capacité, from L. capacitatem, from capax "able to hold much," from capere "to take" (see capable). Meaning "largest audience a place can hold" is 1908. Capacitate is recorded from 1657.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

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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Computing Dictionary

capacity definition

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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Example sentences
We lost the ability to be still, our capacity for idleness.
They have lost the ability to be alone, their capacity for solitude.
But the subsonic plane has room for 400 passengers, quadruple the Concorde's
The kingdom is the only producer with significant spare capacity to compensate
  for unexpected supply losses such as Libya's.
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