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

The moment is right for another sequel, if only there were someone left in Washington with the competence and courage to produce it. Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, "Big agencies and studios have a lock on Hollywood. It’s high time to apply antitrust law.," 9 Sep. 2019 But the Conservatives, aided by their allies in the British media, managed to raise enough doubts about Labour’s economic competence to gain an over-all majority in the House of Commons. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "No Wonder the Economy Has Trump Spooked," 16 Aug. 2019 The Verdict: Nothing about the Phillies since the end of May suggests any kind of sustainable competence. Jon Tayler,, "Who's Going to Win the Chaotic NL Wild-Card Race?," 12 Aug. 2019 Because generally, there’s a level of competence on display. Doug Lesmerises,, "A day at Cleveland Browns camp looking for something to criticize: Doug Lesmerises," 30 July 2019 Today, college has become our go-to yardstick for minimal competence. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, "College Does Not Make You a Better Person," 25 July 2019 But mere competence would have been an upgrade over recent Sox pitching efforts — their staff entered with a 6.80 ERA in its last 10 games, nine of them losses. Chad Finn,, "When will the dark clouds hovering over the Red Sox ever dissipate?," 8 Aug. 2019 Many times, President Trump has insisted on her competence and qualifications, no matter what. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "The Meaning Behind the #UnwantedIvanka Meme," 2 July 2019 The trailer eventually leaked out because #Internet, and its competence only complicated that network silence. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Kevin Bacon shares the Tremors TV pilot—Val is washed, Graboids are hungry," 9 June 2019

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

11 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for competence

The first known use of competence was circa 1640

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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 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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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