in·​ca·​pac·​i·​ty | \ ˌin-kə-ˈpa-sə-tē How to pronounce incapacity (audio) , -ˈpa-stē\
plural incapacities

Definition of incapacity

: the quality or state of being incapable especially : lack of physical or intellectual power or of natural or legal qualifications

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of incapacity in a Sentence

I'm aware of my weaknesses and incapacities. her entrenched incapacity for decision-making doesn't make her a very good boss

Recent Examples on the Web

In dynamic disease environments, traditional vaccines are crippled by distribution and storage challenges, as well as by their innate incapacity to adapt to new threats and mutations. Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "In the not-so-distant future, “synbio” could lead to global catastrophe—maybe," 18 June 2019 Congress unlikely to act The amendment does permit Congress to provide for an alternative body that can, with the agreement of the vice president, make an initial determination of presidential incapacity. The Conversation,, "Here’s an expert’s opinion on why Trump haters shouldn’t expect help from 25th Amendment," 15 June 2019 Failing health including mental incapacity often cause reverse-mortgage defaults, Glasse said. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "Reverse mortgages can cause problems when spouses, heirs aren't on board," 12 June 2019 At the Supreme Court, however, Alabama Deputy Attorney General Thomas Govan, agreed with Mr. Madison’s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, that the cause of an inmate’s mental incapacity didn’t matter. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Supreme Court Grapples With Planned Execution of Convicted Killer With Dementia," 2 Oct. 2018 No always means no, incapacity means no by default, and there are no exceptions. Martin Weil, Washington Post, "Girl was allegedly raped at a party in Prince William, police say," 21 Apr. 2018 Among the biggest problems in the Muslim world, in the Arab world, is the incapacity to face the problem. James Mcauley, Washington Post, "Struggling to prevent terrorist attacks, France wants to ‘reform’ Islam," 17 Apr. 2018 But what if the incapacity had not, in fact, been overcome? Jon Meacham, Time, "Could the 25th Amendment Be Trump's Downfall? Here's How It Works," 11 Jan. 2018 The big Russian shadow libraries emerged from this mix of clandestine librarianship, economic crisis, technological change and — at the state level — regulatory incapacity. Joe Karaganis, Washington Post, "Russia is building a new Napster — but for academic research," 13 July 2018

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

1611, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for incapacity

French incapacité, from Middle French, from in- + capacité capacity

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incapacity

Statistics for incapacity

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incapacity

The first known use of incapacity was in 1611

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for incapacity



English Language Learners Definition of incapacity

formal : a lack or loss of the ability to do something in the usual or desired way


in·​ca·​pac·​i·​ty | \ ˌin-kə-ˈpa-sə-tē How to pronounce incapacity (audio) \
plural incapacities

Legal Definition of incapacity

1 : the quality or state of being incapable especially : lack of legal qualifications due to age or mental condition — compare capacity
2 : the inability of an injured worker to perform the duties required in a job for which he or she is qualified — compare disability sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on incapacity

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!