in·​ca·​pa·​ble (ˌ)in-ˈkā-pə-bəl How to pronounce incapable (audio)
: lacking capacity, ability, or qualification for the purpose or end in view: such as
: not able or fit for the doing or performance : incompetent
: not being in a state or of a kind to admit : insusceptible
archaic : not able to take in, hold, or keep
archaic : not receptive
: lacking legal qualification or power (as by reason of mental incompetence) : disqualified
incapableness noun
incapably adverb

Examples of incapable in a Sentence

hired a supremely incapable assistant who only made a mess of things
Recent Examples on the Web But the pithy contradiction shows that Allen is incapable of a European’s moral complexity, although he was enticed by it and admired it. Armond White, National Review, 5 Apr. 2024 Celebrity conductors, who often earn more than a million dollars a year, seem incapable of confining themselves to one job at a time. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 2 Apr. 2024 Andrés seems fundamentally incapable of mundane conversation, of course. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, 19 Mar. 2024 That undeniable confirmation for the world’s revisionist forces that America was an exhausted power incapable of defending its interests for very long was swiftly followed on by Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine — a horrific war of territorial conquest unseen on the European continent since 1945. Noah Rothman, National Review, 18 Mar. 2024 From the beginning, the U.N. and aid groups warned that the convoys were incapable of meeting the requirements of more than 2 million people who had the most basic needs. Doha Madani, NBC News, 7 Mar. 2024 For those who more naturally sympathize with the Israeli mother than the Gazan hiding from the bombs, these responses exist across that chasm Chen describes, one that empathy alone is incapable of bridging. Phil Klay, The Atlantic, 12 Mar. 2024 Bob and Lily’s connection might be idealized, but Laymon still takes care to ground them in moments that feel authentic, performed by actors who seem incapable of striking a false note. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Mar. 2024 Famous fossil is really just paint, rocks and a couple of bones, researchers say The spider is venomous, but its fangs are incapable of breaking human skin. Taylor Nicioli, CNN, 25 Feb. 2024

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

Word History


Middle French, from in- + capable capable

First Known Use

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of incapable was in 1594

Dictionary Entries Near incapable

Cite this Entry

“Incapable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


in·​ca·​pa·​ble (ˈ)in-ˈkā-pə-bəl How to pronounce incapable (audio)
: not able to do something
incapable of cleaning her room thoroughly

Legal Definition


: lacking legal qualification or power (as by reason of mental incompetence) see also incapacity

More from Merriam-Webster on incapable

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