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

Definition of incompetence

: the state or fact of being incompetent

Keep scrolling for more

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 two sides have traded accusations of misconduct, incompetence, bullying and, after one ugly hallway confrontation between two of the attorneys, even slander. Benjamin Oreskes,, "Essential California: Extreme weather prompts warnings," 2 Mar. 2018 Laura Codruta Kovesi's dismissal complies with a ruling from Romania's top court, which had ordered it over the accusations of incompetence, President Klaus Iohannis's office said. Fox News, "Romania's chief anti-graft prosecutor fired," 10 July 2018 Laura Codruta Kovesi’s dismissal complies with a ruling from Romania’s top court, which ordered it over the accusations of incompetence, President Klaus Iohannis’s office said. Washington Post, "World Digest: July 9, 2018," 9 July 2018 But what started out as incompetence or negligence, turned into something more serious, as bureaucrats repeatedly downplayed and dismissed the concerns of Flint residents. Molly Rauch, Good Housekeeping, "When Your Water Poisons Your Children," 16 Feb. 2016 Rush accused Shippen of neglect, incompetence and corruption but underestimated his antagonist’s political clout. Stephen Brumwell, WSJ, "‘Rush’ and ‘Dr. Benjamin Rush’ Review: American Hippocrates," 20 Sep. 2018 This lack of a clear protagonist is not incompetence on Kubrick's part, as every other film in his oeuvre demonstrates. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "2001 in 70mm: Pod bay doors look better than ever, still won’t open," 21 July 2018 For decades, British authorities tolerated evasion of its trade laws through a combination of neglect, incompetence and corruption. Peter Andreas, Washington Post, "Breaking border laws is as American as it gets," 3 July 2018 In office, the FPO exhibited constant infighting, incompetence, and even corruption., "Europe forgot what 'conservative' means," 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.

See More

First Known Use of incompetence

1663, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incompetence

Share incompetence

Statistics for incompetence

Last Updated

9 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incompetence

The first known use of incompetence was in 1663

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more


in·​com·​pe·​tence | \ in-ˈkäm-pə-təns \

Legal Definition of incompetence

: the state or fact of being incompetent — compare competency

Keep scrolling for more

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).


important, real, or meaningful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!