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

In an unprecedented move, CAF has effectively handed over control to FIFA, the global soccer governing body, in what’s viewed as a stark admission of its incompetence. Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Africa, "FIFA is taking over African soccer amid corruption charges at CAF," 20 June 2019 But there’s an old saying that often applies in politics, and specifically in the case of what happened in Broward County: Never attribute malice to what can be explained by incompetence — or just plain mismanagement. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Brenda Snipes says she won’t resign as Broward County election supervisor after all," 3 Dec. 2018 Everyone is afraid to be seen as incompetent, but true incompetence is not knowing and still acting without consultation. Janet Mock, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Pose' Writer-Producer: What I Learned From My First Directing Experience (Guest Column)," 7 June 2019 But these three, blinded by prejudice, bewitched by ambition, and burdened by incompetence, could not. Jay Cost, National Review, "The Worst Presidents? Look at America’s Run-up to the Civil War," 22 Jan. 2018 As a parliamentary party, LRM was accused of arrogance by some, incompetence by others. The Economist, "En Marche! What for?The movement that Emmanuel Macron rode to power needs a new role," 18 Jan. 2018 Its level of incompetence may be gauged by the fact that the Transport Minister—cleverly planning ahead to ease disruption on either side of the British channel—has ordered a new ferry, from a company that turned out not to own such a boat. Sarah Mower, Vogue, "The Brexit Deadline Is Looming—Here’s How It Will Affect London Fashion Week," 14 Feb. 2019 During the 2008 financial crisis, Citi was presented as the victim of events beyond its control -- the larger financial panic, unforeseen economic disruptions, and a perfect storm of credit expansion, private greed, and public incompetence. Fox News, "'Borrowed Time: Two Centuries of Booms, Busts, and Bailouts at Citi' by James Freeman and Vern McKinley," 6 Aug. 2018 In actual fact, the whole incident stemmed from sheer, amateurish incompetence., "World Cup Countdown: 13 Weeks to Go - The Story of Pickles the Dog & the Jules Rimet Trophy," 22 Mar. 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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Statistics for incompetence

Last Updated

26 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 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

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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

What made you want to look up incompetence? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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