in·​com·​pe·​tence | \ (ˌ)in-ˈkäm-pə-tən(t)s How to pronounce incompetence (audio) \

Definition of incompetence

: the state or fact of being incompetent

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Examples of incompetence in a Sentence

Because of his incompetence, we won't make our deadline. She was fired for gross incompetence.
Recent Examples on the Web Trump, in all his wealthy incompetence, delivered a promise to restore it. Jeneé Osterheldt,, "Trump’s Capitol Hill terrorists affirmed the truth: America should not be restored. It must be rebuilt," 6 Jan. 2021 Tribes have experienced disinvestment, incompetence and brutality at the hands of the federal government. Jessica Flores, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus updates: Unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans; more infectious UK strain edges closer to US," 28 Dec. 2020 In 2004, Antonacci represented then-Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in presenting the case in the Senate proceedings over his removal of Broward Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant for neglect of duty, incompetence and misfeasance. Anthony Man,, "Who is Peter Antonacci, the Republican in charge of presidential voting in overwhelmingly Democratic Broward County?," 26 Oct. 2020 The Trump administration condemned the nation to a catastrophic toll in sickness and death through its incompetence and recklessness; its partners on Capitol Hill have countenanced an equivalent toll in the economy at large. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: The COVID relief bill isn’t nearly big enough," 21 Dec. 2020 Malzahn’s new contract that allowed Auburn to languish for so long was the fault of a university president who was fired for his incompetence. Joseph Goodman |, al, "Auburn sends powerful message in firing Gus Malzahn," 13 Dec. 2020 Most reflect glee over his pugnacious style and a hunch that his incompetence, notably in handling COVID-19, has usefully harmed America. Star Tribune, "No American election will change China's mind or course," 7 Nov. 2020 But his incompetence and cruelty in 2020 have left many at a breaking point. Chelsea Clinton, Glamour, "Chelsea Clinton: On the Eve of the Election, I’m Thinking of the Moms," 2 Nov. 2020 This sloppy thinking goes together with filmmaking incompetence, never even making clear what Olympic events Smith won. Armond White, National Review, "With Drawn Arms Presents a BLM Puppet Show," 16 Dec. 2020

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

1663, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for incompetence

Time Traveler

The first known use of incompetence was in 1663

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Statistics for incompetence

Last Updated

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incompetence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for incompetence


How to pronounce incompetence (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incompetence

: lack of the ability to do something well : the quality or state of not being competent


in·​com·​pe·​tence | \ in-ˈkäm-pə-təns How to pronounce incompetence (audio) \

Kids Definition of incompetence

: the inability to do a good job … they were frustrated by their … own incompetence.— Jack London, The Call of the Wild


in·​com·​pe·​tence | \ (ˈ)in-ˈkäm-pət-ən(t)s How to pronounce incompetence (audio) \

Medical Definition of incompetence

1 : lack of legal qualification
2 : inability of an organ or part to perform its function adequately incompetence of an aortic valve

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in·​com·​pe·​tence | \ in-ˈkäm-pə-təns How to pronounce incompetence (audio) \

Legal Definition of incompetence

: the state or fact of being incompetent — compare competency

More from Merriam-Webster on incompetence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for incompetence

Nglish: Translation of incompetence for Spanish Speakers

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