in·​ca·​pa·​ble | \ (ˌ)in-ˈkā-pə-bəl How to pronounce incapable (audio) \

Definition of incapable

1 : lacking capacity, ability, or qualification for the purpose or end in view: such as
a archaic : not able to take in, hold, or keep
b archaic : not receptive
c : not being in a state or of a kind to admit : insusceptible
d : not able or fit for the doing or performance : incompetent
2 : lacking legal qualification or power (as by reason of mental incompetence) : disqualified

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from incapable

incapability \ (ˌ)in-​ˌkā-​pə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce incapability (audio) \ noun
incapableness \ (ˌ)in-​ˈkā-​pə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce incapableness (audio) \ noun
incapably \ (ˌ)in-​ˈkā-​pə-​blē How to pronounce incapably (audio) \ 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 offense, despite adding 20 points after the game was basically out of contention, was incapable of playing from behind against a team with elite talent. Nick Baumgardner, USA TODAY, "Jim Harbaugh in whatever-it-takes mode as he tries to lead Michigan back to top of Big Ten," 16 Aug. 2019 The stories and subplots do evolve some, but the dialogue remains excruciatingly flat (and often just corny), while the annoyingly dull cast seems incapable of giving the material much lift. Hank Stuever, Washington Post, "Send your regrets to Hulu’s ‘Four Weddings and Funeral’ (and a sympathy card)," 29 July 2019 Ryan Ford, Detroit Free Press To suggest Jim Harbaugh is incapable of evolution within his coaching philosophy is to ignore most of his journey in the game itself. Nick Baumgardner, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football's new offense: 'We were made for this'," 25 July 2019 As in many Western countries, there is widespread disillusionment with a system that increasingly seems incapable of delivering economic prosperity, or even security, for large parts of the population. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, "Russians embrace Soviet ideals – by not paying their gas bills," 30 Jan. 2019 But intelligence officials in Washington disagree, arguing the group is mostly incapable of exporting terrorism worldwide. New York Times, "U.S. Military Calls ISIS in Afghanistan a Threat to the West. Intelligence Officials Disagree.," 2 Aug. 2019 But intelligence officials in Washington disagree, arguing the group is mostly incapable of exporting terrorism worldwide. Julian E. Barnes,, "US military and intelligence officials at odds over Islamic State in Afghanistan," 2 Aug. 2019 But Beach argued that the women were not incapable of understanding their own actions. Soumya Karlamangla,, "Three women were sexually abused while in a psych hospital. Now they’re suing," 21 June 2019 According to Will, Carter was an incompetent moralist, and Reagan a friend who won the Cold War but was nevertheless incapable of restraining the appetites of voters for big government. Matthew Continetti, National Review, "The Conservative Sensibility Is George Will’s Definitive Declaration," 20 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incapable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of incapable

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incapable

Middle French, from in- + capable capable

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incapable

Statistics for incapable

Last Updated

20 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incapable

The first known use of incapable was in 1594

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for incapable



English Language Learners Definition of incapable

: not able to do something : not capable


in·​ca·​pa·​ble | \ in-ˈkā-pə-bəl How to pronounce incapable (audio) \

Kids Definition of incapable

: not able to do something Penguins are incapable of flight.



Legal Definition of incapable

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on incapable

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


of or relating to the heavens

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!