com·​pe·​tent | \ˈkäm-pə-tənt \

Definition of competent 

1 : proper or rightly pertinent

2 : having requisite or adequate ability or qualities : fit a competent teacher a competent piece of work

3 : legally qualified or adequate a competent witness

4 : having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way specifically : having the capacity to respond (as by producing an antibody) to an antigenic determinant immunologically competent cells

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Other Words from competent

competently adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for competent


able, capable, equal, fit, good, qualified, suitable


incompetent, inept, poor, unfit, unfitted, unqualified

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Choose the Right Synonym for competent

sufficient, enough, adequate, competent mean being what is necessary or desirable. sufficient suggests a close meeting of a need. sufficient savings enough is less exact in suggestion than sufficient. do you have enough food? adequate may imply barely meeting a requirement. the service was adequate competent suggests measuring up to all requirements without question or being adequately adapted to an end. had no competent notion of what was going on

Examples of competent in a Sentence

… he was tolerated, if not endorsed as the competent painter he was. — Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, 2005 The crafting of fine violins has proceeded for centuries as a secret art, handed down through apprenticeships from generation to generation. It takes 8 years, at least, to train a competent craftsman, decades to hone a master. — Richard Lipkin, Science News, 3 Sept. 1994 "Resort cities're transient places," the detective argued. " … That doesn't mean the police aren't competent." — Joseph Wambaugh, The Secrets of Harry Bright, 1985 … I discovered that Lieutenant Lincoln—a much-admired man hereabouts, and, I imagine, an exceedingly competent physician—was from Worcester … — Alexander Woollcott, letter, 2 Oct. 1917 The defendant was declared competent to stand trial. any competent mechanic should be able to fix that
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Recent Examples on the Web

Gotta have starters competent enough to get the ball to the 6th- and 7th-inning hammers. Paul Daugherty,, "Paul Daugherty: Cincinnati Reds could learn from Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen tactics," 3 May 2018 Is there any fair way to determine who is and isn’t competent? Sean Illing, Vox, "A political theorist’s provocative idea for how to fix democracy.," 23 July 2018 Tsygankova, originally of Russia, initially was deemed unfit for trial, but received mental health treatment and was ruled competent last year. Nicole Darrah, Fox News, "Texas mom, concert pianist's wife, found not guilty of smothering daughters by reason of insanity," 16 July 2018 He was found competent to stand trial in April, but Hartke is appealing that ruling, the newspaper reported. Crystal Hill, miamiherald, "She was held captive in a pit — but the man thought he was protecting her, Ohio documents say," 14 June 2018 An Iraq war veteran, Santiago has been treated for schizophrenia but was found competent to understand legal proceedings. NBC News, "Alaska man Esteban Santiago pleads guilty in Florida airport shooting," 23 May 2018 Gaps in staff knowledge about transgender health contribute to patients’ uncertainty about receiving prejudice-free, competent care. Anna Schroll, National Geographic, "What It's Like Being Transgender in the Emergency Room," 19 Mar. 2018 So the more competition there is, the more competent and productive and efficient our producers would be. Fox News, "Fair trade vs. free trade: which is better for the US?," 25 June 2018 The Business Roundtable groups and chambers of commerce which also are competent and which should have a passionate professional interest in maintaining drug-free workplaces and safeguarding our youth? WSJ, "Legalizing Marijuana: The Pros and Cons," 20 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'competent.' 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 competent

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for competent

Middle English, suitable, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin competent-, competens, from present participle of competere — see compete

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Statistics for competent

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for competent

The first known use of competent was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for competent



English Language Learners Definition of competent

: having the necessary ability or skills : able to do something well or well enough to meet a standard

law : able to take part in a trial


com·​pe·​tent | \ˈkäm-pə-tənt \

Kids Definition of competent

: capable sense 2, efficient a competent teacher

Other Words from competent

competently adverb


com·​pe·​tent | \ˈkäm-pət-ənt \

Medical Definition of competent 

: having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way specifically : having the capacity to respond (as by producing an antibody) to an antigenic determinant immunologically competent cells

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com·​pe·​tent | \ˈkäm-pə-tənt \

Legal Definition of competent 

1 : having or showing requisite or adequate ability or qualities a competent lawyer competent representation by counsel

2a : free from addiction or mental defect that renders one incapable of taking care of oneself or one's property

b : capable of understanding one's position as a criminal defendant and the nature of the criminal proceedings and able to participate in one's defense — compare capacity, incompetent, insanity

3 : legally qualified or adequate: as

a : having the necessary power or authority a judge of competent jurisdictionU.S. Code

b : qualified for presentation in court : admissible as evidence or capable of giving admissible evidence a competent witness

c : intelligent a competent waiver

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Comments on competent

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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