com·​pe·​tence ˈkäm-pə-tən(t)s How to pronounce competence (audio)
: the quality or state of being competent: such as
: 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
law : legal authority, ability, or admissibility
a matter within the competence of a judge to adjudicate
: the knowledge that enables a person to speak and understand a language
has demonstrated competence in conversational Arabic
compare performance sense 6
biology : the ability to function or develop in a particular way: such as
embryology : the ability of embryonic cells and tissue to undergo differentiation in response to an organizer (see organizer sense 2)
microbiology : the capability of bacterial cells to take up exogenous DNA during genetic transformation
: 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

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 The rapid advance of generative A.I. in the workplace is having a similar effect on employees’ sense of competence across a growing number of industries. François Candelon, Fortune, 1 Sep. 2023 Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has tarnished Russia’s reputation in Europe and the United States, raising doubts about his regime’s competence. Michael Kimmage and Hanna Notte, Foreign Affairs, 1 Sep. 2023 When almost the entire pitching staff goes haywire, a 3.52 ERA and 3.50 FIP – loosely, the definition of competence – is greatly appreciated. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 29 June 2023 Yet, as Roberts rightly observed, courts have no competence to decide how much diversity is enough. The Editors, National Review, 29 June 2023 His sudden absence and potential firing could be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's war effort in Ukraine, some Western military experts believe, noting the general's reputation for competence that goes back to Russia's military operations in Syria. Michael Lee, Fox News, 25 Aug. 2023 As a result, Canada’s firefighting competence is being scrutinized as nations deploy hundreds of their own firefighters to the country, while also pressuring Ottawa to get a grip on the crisis. Omar Mouallem, WIRED, 23 Aug. 2023 But the official explanations for why Prigozhin was allowed to escape without punishment looked unusually thin, highlighting new doubts about Putin’s strength and competence in a crisis. Mary Ilyushina, Washington Post, 27 June 2023 An increasingly contentious custody battle for their four minor children is underway, as the former NFL linebacker and Bravo star challenge each other’s competence in court. Bailey Richards, Peoplemag, 25 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'competence.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see competent

First Known Use

circa 1640, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of competence was circa 1640

Dictionary Entries Near competence

Cite this Entry

“Competence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


com·​pe·​tence ˈkäm-pət-ən(t)s How to pronounce competence (audio)
: a supply (as of money or property) that is enough to provide for the necessities of life
: the quality or state of being competent

Medical Definition


com·​pe·​tence ˈkäm-pət-ən(t)s How to pronounce competence (audio)
: the quality or state of being functionally adequate
assess the competence of the immune system
: as
: the properties of an embryonic field that enable it to respond in a characteristic manner to an organizer
: readiness of bacteria to undergo genetic transformation

Legal Definition


com·​pe·​tence ˈkäm-pə-təns How to pronounce competence (audio)
: the quality or state of being competent: as
: possession of sufficient knowledge or skill
: legal authority, ability, or admissibility
a court of general competence
the competence of witnesses
challenge the competence of the evidence

More from Merriam-Webster on competence

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