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

Other Words from incommensurable

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

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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 ("incommensurable theories"), 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 This meant that the sacred and the profane lived cheek by jowl—intimately connected and yet incommensurable with each other. Peter Brown, The New York Review of Books, 24 Sep. 2020 This was inimical to long-term functional currency status just as over-abundant incommensurable dialects and over-frequent meaning-changes would be inimical to a functional lingua franca. Robert Hockett, Forbes, 28 June 2021 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, 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.

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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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in commemoration of



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Cite this Entry

“Incommensurable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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