in·​cel ˈin-ˌsel How to pronounce incel (audio)
plural incels
: a person (usually a man) who regards himself or herself as being involuntarily celibate and typically expresses extreme resentment and hostility toward those who are sexually active
The term "incels" emerged from a Reddit group in which tens of thousands of users, most of them young men, commiserate about their lack of sexual activity—many of them placing the blame on women.Josh O'Kane
In recent years, a number of these men have identified as so-called incels, short for involuntary celibates, an online subculture of men who express rage at women for denying them sex and who frequently fantasize about violence and celebrate mass shooters in their online discussion groups.Julie Bosman et al.

Examples of incel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In the end, Todd Phillips’s Joker, a film which had generated frenzied debate about incel culture and violence, scooped Venice’s top prize, while Polanski was the runner-up and landed the Grand Jury Prize. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 29 Aug. 2023 The incel community fascinated me, particularly in its violence. Ben Croll, Variety, 3 Sep. 2023 TikTok is trying to tweak its algorithm in response to growing concerns that young users are awash in content encouraging suicide and incel ideology. WIRED, 28 July 2023 The mental health issues, isolation, bitterness and misogynistic thinking that often characterizes incel culture can lead incels to align themselves with increasingly extreme beliefs. Aj Willingham, CNN, 16 Mar. 2023 That this genius is also a murderer with some very strong incel vibes didn’t occur to me till a lot later. Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Times, 14 Apr. 2023 The incel community was known to congregate on Reddit and spew threatening language and violent ideas about women—so much so that, in 2017, the site disbanded r/incels, a group with more than forty thousand members. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 20 Dec. 2022 In the posts, Garcia references specific incel forums and valorizes Elliot Rodger, whose 2014 mass murder spree in Isla Vista, California, is celebrated in incel communities. Erik Ortiz, NBC News, 8 May 2023 What are some common characteristics of incel culture? Aj Willingham, CNN, 16 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History


involuntary celibate

Note: The word incel apparently first appeared on a Usenet newsgroup in the late 1990's. See the article by Ben Zimmer, "How 'Incel' Got Hijacked," published online at Politico Magazine, May 8, 2018 (

First Known Use

1999, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of incel was in 1999

Dictionary Entries Near incel

Cite this Entry

“Incel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

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