late 14c., "state or condition of being able; capacity to do or act," from Old French ableté "ability (to inherit)`," from Latin habilitatem (nominative habilitas, in Medieval Latin abilitas) "aptitude, ability," noun of quality from habilis "easy to manage, handy" (see able). One case where a Latin silent -h- failed to make a return in English (despite efforts of 16c.-17c. scholars); see H. Also in Middle English, "suitableness, fitness." Abilities "one's talents or mental endowments" is from 1580s.
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