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

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 As Vox’s German Lopez points out, there’s no evidence of voter fraud in Florida, but some incompetence and lack of transparency have come to light. Emily Stewart, Vox, "The 2018 midterm races that still aren’t over," 14 Nov. 2018 What kind of incompetence and dangerous governing is this? Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Trump takes aim at 3D-printed guns: 'Doesn't seem to make much sense'," 31 July 2018 My neighborhood has too many candlelight vigils for victims of police brutality or from neglect or incompetence from law enforcement who were not around enough to prevent the situations in the first place. Rachel Dissell,, "Dear Cleveland: Training with police gave us a new perspective, but we still have questions," 28 Apr. 2018 But the Supreme Court’s apparent incompetence has driven state lawmakers to take a stronger stance on capital punishment. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "Tennessee death row inmates ask for electrocution over lethal injection. It’s a form of protest.," 3 Dec. 2018 State law allows the governor to suspend an elections supervisor for malfeasance or incompetence and appoint a replacement. Sean Sullivan, The Seattle Times, "Republicans fan unfounded worries about voter fraud in Florida, other close contests," 12 Nov. 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

17 Apr 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 move or proceed with twists and turns

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