2 : one that occupies a particular position or place
The two-term incumbent has already raised almost a million dollars for the upcoming congressional race.
"In recent weeks, the candidates hoping to succeed Obama have backed into an honest debate about what American power can and can't do. On Tuesday, the incumbent himself joined in, explicitly defending his own restrained approach." — Dante Ramos, The Boston Globe, 14 Jan. 2016
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."
Test Your Memory
What is the meaning of shibboleth, our January 5th Word of the Day?VIEW THE ANSWER