com·pe·tence | \ˈkäm-pə-tən(t)s \

Definition of competence 

1 : a sufficiency of means for the necessities and conveniences of life " … money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction … "— Jane Austen

2 : the quality or state of being competent: such as

a : the properties of an embryonic field that enable it to respond in a characteristic manner to an organizer

b : readiness of bacteria to undergo genetic transformation

3 : the knowledge that enables a person to speak and understand a language has demonstrated competence in conversational Arabic — compare performance sense 6

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Examples of competence in a Sentence

He trusts in the competence of his doctor. questioned his competence to finish the task without help

Recent Examples on the Web

Upsets and minnows may animate the party phase—the three-week, 48-match group stage—but at the business of the tournament, there is nothing but fierce competence. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "France Advances to the World Cup Final," 10 July 2018 More often than not, many people–including women, who are often complicit–have chosen to ignore or wall off ugly, abusive behavior from professional competence. Susanna Schrobsdorff, Time, "When the Barrier Between Personal Misconduct and Professional Competence Crumbles," 15 Feb. 2018 Now, six weeks of competence has changed the expectations. Paul Daugherty,, "Daugherty's Morning Line: Do you really want your players in the MLB All-Star Game?," 9 July 2018 The first Trump order goes directly at competence, streamlining procedures to remove poor workers. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Fresh Air in the Swamp," 31 May 2018 At the next mass shooting, act with competence, not cowardice. Fabiola Santiago, miamiherald, "Want a big raise, BSO cops? Next school shooting, act with competence, not cowardice. | Miami Herald," 26 Apr. 2018 This program ensures workers are prepared for life on a rig, contributing to the safety culture, and for achieving competence faster to move into higher-level positions. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Education, training crucial to energy industry success," 8 July 2018 Somehow, only one of those five stands among the final eight, with that one (Brazil) on the caviar side of the bracket alongside Belgium's golden generation, France's soaring talent and Uruguay's all-pitch competence. Chuck Culpepper,, "World Cup final will include one of these teams: England, Croatia, Sweden, Russia. Really.," 4 July 2018 Young Nigerians with integrity and competence that want to serve Nigeria can now run for public office and can now have their name on the ballot. Bukola Adebayo, CNN, "#NotTooYoungToRun: Nigeria lowers minimum age for election candidates," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'competence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of competence

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for competence

see competent

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Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for competence

The first known use of competence was in 1605

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English Language Learners Definition of competence

: the ability to do something well : the quality or state of being competent


com·pe·tence | \ˈkäm-pə-təns \

Kids Definition of competence

: the quality or state of being capable


com·pe·tence | \ˈkäm-pət-ən(t)s \

Medical Definition of competence 

: the quality or state of being functionally adequate assess the competence of the immune system : as

a : the properties of an embryonic field that enable it to respond in a characteristic manner to an organizer

b : readiness of bacteria to undergo genetic transformation

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com·pe·tence | \ˈkäm-pə-təns \

Legal Definition of competence 

: the quality or state of being competent: as

a : possession of sufficient knowledge or skill

b : legal authority, ability, or admissibility a court of general competence the competence of witnesses challenge the competence of the evidence

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