in·​com·​plete | \ˌin-kəm-ˈplēt \

Definition of incomplete 

1 : not complete : unfinished: such as

a : lacking a usually necessary part, element, or step spoke in incomplete sentences an incomplete set of golf clubs an incomplete diet

b : lacking one or more sets of floral organs an incomplete flower without stamens

c of protein : deficient in one or more essential amino acids People used to think you needed to eat incomplete proteins together in the same meal to make up a complete protein, but that view has been debunked; simply eat a variety of plant-based protein sources throughout the day and you'll be fine.— Katherine Hobson

2 of insect metamorphosis : characterized by the absence of a pupal stage between the immature stages and the adult of an insect in which the young usually resemble the adult — compare complete sense 6

3 of a football pass : not legally caught

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Other Words from incomplete

incompletely adverb
incompleteness noun

Examples of incomplete in a Sentence

an incomplete set of encyclopedias She handed in an incomplete assignment.

Recent Examples on the Web

Harvard counters that the reports were incomplete and did not fully capture the nuance of the school’s admissions process, and has said that weaker teacher recommendations are behind Asian American students’ lower personal ratings. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "The lawsuit against Harvard that could change affirmative action in college admissions, explained," 18 Oct. 2018 Among the bones, archaeologists found a copper band, broken and incomplete, and a few copper fragments nearby. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Find shows 4,000-year-old trade routes stretched from Carolinas to Great Lakes," 31 July 2018 Harvard officials claim that the report was incomplete and the analysis oversimplified. The Economist, "A lawsuit reveals how peculiar Harvard’s definition of merit is," 21 June 2018 Harvard responded that the analysis was incomplete and never reached any conclusion about discrimination. Joan Biskupic, CNN, "Lawsuit: Harvard ranks Asian-Americans lower on personality traits," 15 June 2018 The roll call section was left incomplete and the council debated how to report citizen comments, or whether to report them at all. Marialuisa Rincon, Houston Chronicle, "Shenandoah News & Notes: June 13," 14 June 2018 When Carter dared to ask, the answers were incomplete and conflicting. Kristin E. Holmes,, "An absent mother, a badly burned daughter, and a bond forged in a Germantown house fire," 12 May 2018 In place of that present-tense energy, the sequel probes how memories are formed and revived, incomplete and uncertain in the present. Joanna Scutts, The New Republic, "Viv Albertine’s Punk Memories," 10 May 2018 Though fossils of the bird were discovered in 1870, the heads of those first specimens were incomplete and badly crushed, with no new skulls uncovered until recently. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "Fossils of first bird beak discovered, a key clue in how birds evolved from dinosaurs," 3 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incomplete.' 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 incomplete

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incomplete

Middle English incompleet, from Late Latin incompletus, from Latin in- + completus complete

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Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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The first known use of incomplete was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for incomplete



English Language Learners Definition of incomplete

: lacking some part : not finished : not complete

American football of a forward pass : not caught by the player the ball was thrown to


in·​com·​plete | \ˌin-kəm-ˈplēt \

Kids Definition of incomplete

: not finished : not complete

Other Words from incomplete

incompletely adverb


in·​com·​plete | \ˌin-kəm-ˈplēt \

Medical Definition of incomplete 

1 of insect metamorphosis : having no pupal stage between the immature stages and the adult with the young insect usually resembling the adult — compare complete sense 1

2 of a bone fracture : not broken entirely across — compare complete sense 2

3 of a protein : deficient in one or more essential amino acids — compare complete sense 3

4 : characterized by incomplete dominance an incomplete trait

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Comments on incomplete

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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