Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Capability and Competency

Difference Between Capability and Competency

Capability vs. Competency

“Competency” and “capability” are two terms that pertain to human ability. They are often mentioned in many Human Resources related materials, as well as in career and job communications.

“Capability” is the term that describes the quality of being capable. It is the condition that permits an individual to acquire the power and ability to learn and do something within their capacity. “Capability” is also known as implied abilities, or abilities that are not yet developed.

A person with a capability has the potential to acquire a specific ability or skill that will be helpful in a task. The learned skill or ability adds to a person’s knowledge bank or skillset. Capabilities also improve the functions of a person, which can lead to more productivity. New skills and abilities make a person more capable to complete a certain task, which in turn makes them a more suitable candidate for certain job positions.

With time and practice, capabilities can develop into competence. Capabilities serve as the starting point of being able to do something and gradually becoming more adept in performing the task.

“Capability” is derived from the Middle French word “capabilité” and Late Latin word “capābili”. The word was first used in 1587; however, its meaning in today’s usage (underdeveloped skill or faculty) only evolved and was used starting in 1778.

On the other hand, “competence” is the state or quality of an individual’s work. A person and their work can be evaluated as competent if the performance is considered “satisfactory” but not “outstanding.” Competence can also be applied to the improvement or development of one’s abilities and skills for the benefit of the person and the group or institution they represent. The improved skills and abilities are applied to tasks or jobs.

Competence can also result in an increased quality of work or performance. In return, the work and performance will produce more satisfying and favorable results from other parties like clients, bosses, and other relevant individuals.

Competence starts as a person’s capabilities. In a sense, competence is the proven abilities and improved capabilities. Competence can include a combination of knowledge, basic requirements (capabilities), skills, abilities, behavior, and attitude.

“Competence” as a word has its origins in 1632 in the French word “competence” (meaning of sufficient living in ease) and further in the Latin “competentia” (which means agreement or symmetry). However, the modern meaning of the word (sufficiency to deal with a situation or  task) didn’t come into existence until 1790.


  1. “Capability” and “competence” are two manifestations of human abilities and skills. Both words are often met in job advertisements or personnel assessments.
  2. “Capability” is the condition of having the capacity to do something. Within this condition there is a potential for improvement of skills. On the other hand, “competence” is the improved version of “capability,” and means the degree of skill in the task’s performance.
  3. Capabilities lead to competence. An individual with capabilities can acquire a new skillset or knowledge by learning and practicing. Competence serves as a result of the application of capabilities.
  4. Capabilities are seen as “generic,” while competence is more in the field of “specialist.”
  5. Both “capability” and “competence” are derived from French and Latin roots. Another interesting similarity is that both words have earlier meanings distinct from  their current, modern meanings; competence’s modern meaning only evolved in 1790, but the word was already in usage since 1632. “Capability” has been used since 1587, but it took almost 197 years to come to its new and modern meaning.

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  1. THANK YOU! Finally I found text which confirmed my research 🙂 It helped me a lot as English is not my first language. I had feeling that in business articles capability and competence are totally mixed and used without proper understanding 🙂 Thank you for your help and analysis.

  2. Thank you for the explanation, now i know the intensity of each word…

    God Bless and More Power…

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