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

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 Literacy just means competence or knowledge in a specific area. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 Aug. 2022 In deciding to trust new business partners, mangers in this region preferred to test the partner’s competence in-person. Martin Rand, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 The names came from the realms of government, business and the military — fame attracted fame, with much of it rooted in the idea that accomplishment in one area meant competence in another. Washington Post, 8 Dec. 2021 And the biggest transformation came not from a lineup slowly returning to health, but from a bullpen slowly returning to competence. Phil Miller, Star Tribune, 20 June 2021 The prospect of Garcia becoming the first woman mayor of New York City is yet another chapter in America’s ongoing struggle with how to handle female competence in a political world that rarely rewards it. Charlotte Alter, Time, 27 May 2021 Joint attention is vital to social competence at all ages. Peter Mundy, Scientific American, 15 May 2021 The big learning content vendors can give us the credits and produce certificates, but completion doesn’t mean competence. David James, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 After the initial waves of the pandemic were over, health-care authorities promised to handle the next pandemic with more competence. Pradheep J. Shanker, National Review, 29 July 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for competence

Time Traveler

The first known use of competence was circa 1640

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Statistics for competence

Last Updated

18 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Competence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for competence


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on competence

Nglish: Translation of competence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of competence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about competence


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