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

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 That goes along with something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect: studies have shown that people who perform badly on a task fail to recognize their own incompetence. Natalie Wexler, Forbes, 3 Jan. 2022 Its obvious competence beat its general incompetence. Dave Hyde,, 6 Nov. 2021 His own incompetence had proved a great asset to American democracy. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, 3 Oct. 2021 Whatever his personal flaws, though, the real cause of Biden’s incoherent and even contradictory policies lies not in his incompetence but in the contradictory nature of his agenda and his party. Joel Kotkin, National Review, 28 Sep. 2021 The United States is undergoing a precipitous collapse in the authority of its institutions, public as well as private, that is driven, in part, by evidence of their incompetence and corruption. Damon Linker, The Week, 30 June 2021 School district officials are accusing Alvarez of insubordination, neglect of duty and incompetence. Scott Travis,, 13 Dec. 2021 The agency considers an officer’s incompetence something for chiefs and sheriffs to deal with, not state regulators. oregonlive, 1 Dec. 2021 South Vietnamese corruption, incompetence and lack of will to fight was blamed for the debacle, just as Mr. Biden is now denouncing the Afghan government and security forces. WSJ, 19 Aug. 2021

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

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The first known use of incompetence was in 1663

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Statistics for incompetence

Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Incompetence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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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


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

Nglish: Translation of incompetence for Spanish Speakers


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