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noun in·cum·bent \in-ˈkəm-bənt\

Simple Definition of incumbent

  • : a person who holds a particular office or position

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of incumbent

  1. 1 :  the holder of an office or ecclesiastical benefice

  2. 2 :  one that occupies a particular position or place

Examples of incumbent in a sentence

  1. Because the statehouse now determines voting districts, the current map generally ensures that incumbents face minimal challenges to re-election. —Terry McCarthy, Time, 20 Dec. 2004

  2. When Reagan and Clinton were seeking re-election, they didn't go after their opponents directly, in part because they didn't have to. Those incumbents knew that there's a point at which strong and tough can look weak and desperate. —Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, 9 Aug. 2004

  3. Jane Austen was born into the downwardly mobile branch of an upper-middle-class family. … None of the Austen children could inherit the family home from their father, a Church of England clergyman; after his death it would go to the next incumbent. —Kevin Barry, New York Times Book Review, 7 Dec. 1997

  4. Voters will have the chance to see the incumbent and her opponent in a series of three debates.

  5. Incumbents often have an advantage in elections.

Did You Know?

When incumbent was first used in English in the 15th century, it referred to someone who occupied a benefice—a paid position in a church. This was often a lifetime appointment; the person could only be forced to leave the office in the case of certain specific legal conflicts. In the mid-17th century, incumbent came to refer to anyone holding any office, including elected positions. These days, in the American political system, incumbent generally refers to someone who is the current holder of a position during an election to fill that position. Incumbent came to English through Anglo-French and derives from the Latin incumbere, meaning "to lie down on."

Origin and Etymology of incumbent

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin incumbent-, incumbens, present participle of incumbere to lie down on, from in- + -cumbere to lie down; akin to cubare to lie

First Known Use: 15th century

Rhymes with incumbent



adjective in·cum·bent \in-ˈkəm-bənt\

Simple Definition of incumbent

  • : holding an office or position

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of incumbent

  1. 1 :  imposed as a duty :  obligatory <incumbent on us to take action>

  2. 2 :  having the status of an incumbent (see 1incumbent) <the team's incumbent third baseman>; especially :  occupying a specified office <the incumbent mayor>

  3. 3 :  lying or resting on something else

  4. 4 :  bent over so as to rest on or touch an underlying surface

Examples of incumbent in a sentence

  1. It is incumbent upon the press to act not in its own best interests, but in society's best interests. —Carll Tucker, Saturday Review, 23 June 1979

  2. … the various types of obligation incumbent on the members of the profession. —R. M. MacIver, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 1955

  3. … Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

  4. <it is incumbent upon you to attend every staff meeting>

Origin and Etymology of incumbent

(see 1incumbent)

First Known Use: 1567

INCUMBENT Defined for Kids


noun in·cum·bent \in-ˈkəm-bənt\

Definition of incumbent for Students

  1. :  the holder of an office or position <a reelected incumbent>

Seen and Heard

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to criticize in a loud and angry way

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