noun, plural ca·pac·i·ties.

  1. the ability to receive or contain: This hotel has a large capacity.
  2. 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.
  3. power of receiving impressions, knowledge, etc.; mental ability: the capacity to learn calculus.
  4. 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.
  5. quality or state of being susceptible to a given treatment or action: Steel has a high capacity to withstand pressure.
  6. position; function; role: He served in the capacity of legal adviser.
  7. legal qualification.
  8. Electricity.
    1. capacitance.
    2. maximum possible output.


  1. reaching maximum capacity: a capacity audience; a capacity crowd.

noun plural -ties

  1. the ability or power to contain, absorb, or hold
  2. the amount that can be contained; volumea 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
  3. the ability to understand or learn; aptitude; capabilityhe has a great capacity for Greek
  4. the ability to do or produce (often in the phrase at capacity)the factory’s output was not at capacity
  5. a specified position or functionhe was employed in the capacity of manager
  6. a measure of the electrical output of a piece of apparatus such as a motor, generator, or accumulator
  7. electronics a former name for capacitance
  8. computing
    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
  9. the bit rate that a communication channel or other system can carry
  10. legal competencethe capacity to make a will

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.


  1. The measure of potential cubic contents of a cavity or receptacle; volume.
  2. Ability to perform or produce; capability.

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