in·com·pe·tence | \ (ˌ)in-ˈkäm-pə-tən(t)s \

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

Fox News has devoted itself to painting Trump as a protagonist, which can be hard given the scandals, the incompetence, and the cruelty. Alvin Chang, Vox, "Nearly two years into the Trump presidency, Fox News is still obsessed with Hillary Clinton," 11 July 2018 Their incompetence and arrogance during qualifying denied us our own display of delirious national pride like the ones in town squares across Europe, South America and, ugh, rival Mexico. Rich Campbell,, "Missing World Cup can't be in vain for U.S. men's national team," 13 July 2018 The White House would have to answer for its incompetence and neglect. Yvonne Abraham,, "After hurricane struck Puerto Rico, a second disaster was man-made," 2 June 2018 For much of the afternoon, they ooh-ed and ahh-ed at what seemed, to my naked eye, like little more than extended stretches of incompetence. Dugan Arnett,, "What happened when a soccer skeptic sat through a World Cup match," 11 July 2018 A few months later, Hassell asserts, Bird posted a broadside at the online review site Yelp accusing her of incompetence. Michael Hiltzik,, "Yelp may have just saved the internet — but the court ruling in its favor is a dangerous muddle," 3 July 2018 The whole case will, in my opinion, remain immortal in the classics of crime as the supreme example of official incompetence and obstinacy. Sarah Weinman, The New Republic, "Arthur Conan Doyle, True Detective," 14 June 2018 Thus arrived an irresistible metaphor for government incompetence, albeit with the perennial calls for more funding. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "About That IRS Computer Crash," 18 Apr. 2018 The contract also lists grounds for being fired, which are laid out in state law: misconduct in office, immorality, insubordination, incompetence or willful neglect of duty. Donna St. George, Washington Post, "The Prince George’s schools chief said he was quitting. So why is he still there?," 5 July 2018

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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Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for incompetence

The first known use of incompetence was in 1663

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More Definitions for incompetence



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 \

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 \

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 \

Legal Definition of incompetence 

: the state or fact of being incompetent — compare competency

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More from Merriam-Webster on incompetence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for incompetence

Spanish Central: Translation of incompetence

Nglish: Translation of incompetence for Spanish Speakers

Comments on incompetence

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the setting in which something occurs

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