Definition of incommensurable
: not commensurable; broadly : lacking a basis of comparison in respect to a quality normally subject to comparison
incommensurabilityplay \ˌin-kə-ˌmen(t)s-rə-ˈbi-lə-tē, -ˌmen(t)sh-; -ˌmen(t)-sə-, -shə-\ noun
incommensurablyplay \ˌin-kə-ˈmen(t)s-rə-blē, -ˈmen(t)sh-; -ˈmen(t)-sə-, -shə-\ adverb
incommensurable was our Word of the Day on 12/15/2014. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Commensurable means "having a common measure" or "corresponding in size, extent, amount, or degree." Its antonym incommensurable generally refers to things that are unlike and incompatible, sharing no common ground (as in the "incommensurable theories" of the first example sentence), or to things that are very disproportionate, often to the point of defying comparison ("incommensurable crimes"). Both words entered English in the 1500s and were originally used (as they still can be) for numbers that have or don't have a common divisor. They came to English by way of Middle French and Late Latin, ultimately deriving from the Latin noun mensura, meaning "measure." Mensura is also an ancestor of commensurate (meaning "coextensive" or "proportionate") and incommensurate ("disproportionate" or "insufficient"), which overlap in meaning with commensurable and incommensurable but are not exact synonyms.
First Known Use of incommensurable
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up incommensurable? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).