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

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Other Words from incapable

incapability \ (ˌ)in-​ˌkā-​pə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce incapable (audio) \ noun
incapableness \ (ˌ)in-​ˈkā-​pə-​bəl-​nəs How to pronounce incapable (audio) \ noun
incapably \ (ˌ)in-​ˈkā-​pə-​blē How to pronounce incapable (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 During recess in grade school, a teacher routinely admonished her to run, though young Barbara was incapable of doing so. New York Times, "Overlooked No More: Barbara Waxman Fiduccia, Reproductive Rights Advocate," 4 Dec. 2020 But with the surge of infections overwhelming hospitals across Texas, health workers at the United Memorial Medical Center are sometimes incapable of offering more comfort to their patients, Varon said. Paulina Villegas, Washington Post, "Heartbreaking photo shows PPE-clad doctor comforting lonely, elderly covid-19 patient," 30 Nov. 2020 Trump's team has been incapable of organizing even basic legal activities since the election, let alone the widescale political and legal apparatus needed to convince state legislators to try to undermine the will of their states' voters. Zeke Miller, Star Tribune, "Trump targets vote certification in late bid to block Biden," 18 Nov. 2020 The lawsuit, which stemmed from a viral rumor that falsely claimed Arizona’s voting machines were incapable of tabulating ballots filled out with Sharpies, was already on the rocks. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Trump Loses String of Election Lawsuits, Leaving Few Vehicles to Fight His Defeat," 13 Nov. 2020 Stanford was incapable of building an insurmountable lead. oregonlive, "10 takeaways from Oregon’s season-opening win over Stanford," 9 Nov. 2020 Biden also led in three states that had not yet been officially called—Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona—but the Pennsylvania results gave Biden a lead that Trump was now incapable of overcoming. Stuart Emmrich, Vogue, "Joe Biden Wins the Presidency," 7 Nov. 2020 Your Friend Says Runners are incapable of talking honestly about running. Jason Hayes, The New Yorker, "How to Support Your Friend Who Wants to Run a Marathon," 5 Nov. 2020 Very few people are incapable of controlling some of their behavior if the incentives are right. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, "My Adult Son Moved In. It’s a Nightmare. Can I Kick Him Out?," 27 Oct. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of incapable

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incapable

Middle French, from in- + capable capable

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Time Traveler for incapable

Time Traveler

The first known use of incapable was in 1594

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Statistics for incapable

Last Updated

17 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incapable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for incapable


How to pronounce incapable (audio)

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

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Comments on incapable

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