com·​pe·​tence | \ ˈkäm-pə-tən(t)s How to pronounce competence (audio) \

Definition of competence

1 : the quality or state of being competent: such as
a the quality or state of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, skill, or strength (as for a particular duty or in a particular respect) No one denies her competence as a leader. They have demonstrated their competence in their specialty or subspecialty by passing a comprehensive exam …— Rachael Migler
b law : legal authority, ability, or admissibility a matter within the competence of a judge to adjudicate
c : the knowledge that enables a person to speak and understand a language has demonstrated competence in conversational Arabic — compare performance sense 6
d biology : the ability to function or develop in a particular way: such as
(1) embryology : the ability of embryonic cells and tissue to undergo differentiation in response to an organizer (see organizer sense 2)
(2) microbiology : the capability of bacterial cells to take up exogenous DNA during genetic transformation
2 : 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

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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

Anyone who doubts Monreal's competence in the Premier League should read up on what makes a solid defender., "Arsenal Defence: Analysing the Level of Football Each of the Gunners' Centre-Backs Should Be Playing," 11 July 2019 His hair was stylishly coiffed and his suit, double-breasted and buttoned, struck me as all wrong, a kind of elaborate deceit implying fabled expertise and dark competence. David Rabe, The New Yorker, "Uncle Jim Called," 1 July 2019 Vucevic is, inarguably, a player who can produce enough to help carry a team to competence through a long regular season. Rob Mahoney,, "NBA Free Agency 2019: Top 50 Players Available," 24 June 2019 Fewer are attracted to men with cats, possibly because owning a cat is less convincing proof of domestic competence. The Economist, "Pet-ownership is booming across the world," 22 June 2019 How the therapist responds and the language that the therapist uses in responding are big clues as to their experience and competence. Teen Vogue, "Why Queer and Transgender People of Color Deserve Safe Spaces During Pride 2019," 1 June 2019 But China and India were indisputably the world’s largest economies until the 1800s for one simple reason: until the Industrial Revolution, most societies had comparable levels of technological competence. Marilynne Robinson, Harper's magazine, "Letters," 10 May 2019 Automobile insurance is also required (mandated), but some level of driving competence is also required. WSJ, "Health Mandates Need to Have Some Caveats," 30 Apr. 2019 But these are absolutely outside my interest and competence. Quanta Magazine, "A Collector of Math and Physics Surprises," 27 Nov. 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

circa 1640, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for competence

see competent

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Statistics for competence

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for competence

The first known use of competence was circa 1640

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More Definitions for competence



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 How to pronounce competence (audio) \

Kids Definition of competence

: the quality or state of being capable


com·​pe·​tence | \ ˈkäm-pət-ən(t)s How to pronounce competence (audio) \

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 How to pronounce competence (audio) \

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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Comments on competence

What made you want to look up competence? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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