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

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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 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 One study published in PLoS One had 50 healthy coffee drinkers who were biologically incapable of menstruating participate in two trials, each lasting for three days. Korin Miller, SELF, "Is Coffee Actually Dehydrating?," 6 Mar. 2019 However, older stutterers are typically incapable of reversing the condition. Char Adams,, "5 Common Myths About Stuttering Debunked (It's Not Psychological!)," 18 June 2018 The Commander is incapable of doing his job and she is forced to step up or lose their position, because to lose their position would be the fall of their small empire. Rena Gross, Billboard, "'The Handmaid's Tale' Director Kari Skogland on Identity, Easter Eggs & More," 5 June 2018 Be Black Most people don’t know that white people are scientifically incapable of tasting seasonings (which saves them a lot of money but costs them a lot in ridicule). Michael Harriot, The Root, "Top 10 Ways Black People Keep Racism Alive, According to Wypipo," 2 May 2018

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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Statistics for incapable

Last Updated

6 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incapable

The first known use of incapable was in 1594

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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

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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).


to shake or wave menacingly

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