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

The gambling city suffered catastrophic flooding during Typhoon Hato last August that left 10 dead and led to accusations of corruption and incompetence at its meteorological office. Fox News, "Typhoon lashes south China after killing 28 in Philippines," 16 Sep. 2018 And government corruption and incompetence are mostly to blame. Jennifer Williams, Vox, "The violent protests in Iraq, explained," 8 Sep. 2018 After a year filled with bug fixes and heavy user criticism about everything from fragile MacBook keyboards to Siri’s incompetence, Apple’s focus was on improving existing things rather than introducing new ones. David Pierce, WSJ, "Seven Things Apple Introduced That Could Improve Your Life," 4 June 2018 This was always a gross oversimplification fueled by some combination of incompetence, apathy, and racial animus. Jay Willis, GQ, "What Happened in Puerto Rico Is Far Worse Than Trump Wants You to Think," 29 May 2018 Fraud, deceit, or dishonesty, incompetence, and gross negligence in the practice of mortuary science. Hasan Dudar, Detroit Free Press, "Officials: Mold-covered bodies found at Detroit funeral home," 25 Apr. 2018 To hear a trombone play a soft, lyrically seductive melodic phrase in the introduction of the Second Symphony — something that was new to symphonic music — was not incompetence but a vision for broadening of the aspects of beauty. Mark Swed,, "Dudamel untangles the strangeness of Schumann's symphonies," 29 May 2018 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

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

13 Nov 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

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


playful or foolish behavior

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