in·​com·​men·​su·​ra·​ble | \ ˌin-kə-ˈmen(t)s-rə-bəl How to pronounce incommensurable (audio) , -ˈmen(t)sh-; -ˈmen(t)-sə-, -shə- \

Definition of incommensurable

: not commensurable broadly : lacking a basis of comparison in respect to a quality normally subject to comparison

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Other Words from incommensurable

incommensurability \ ˌin-​kə-​ˌmen(t)s-​rə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce incommensurability (audio) , -​ˌmen(t)sh-​ ; -​ˌmen(t)-​sə-​ , -​shə-​ \ noun
incommensurable noun
incommensurably \ ˌin-​kə-​ˈmen(t)s-​rə-​blē How to pronounce incommensurably (audio) , -​ˈmen(t)sh-​ ; -​ˈmen(t)-​sə-​ , -​shə-​ \ adverb

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.

Examples of incommensurable in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Children are both sources of incommensurable joy and inefficient engines of need; careers, particularly athletic careers, can also be capricious and make uncompromising demands. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "The Meaning of Kim Clijsters’s Second Comeback," 18 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incommensurable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of incommensurable

1570, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of incommensurable was in 1570

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Cite this Entry

“Incommensurable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

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