in·​con·​gru·​ous (ˌ)in-ˈkäŋ-grə-wəs How to pronounce incongruous (audio)
: lacking congruity: such as
: not harmonious : incompatible
incongruous colors
: not conforming : disagreeing
conduct incongruous with principle
: inconsistent within itself
an incongruous story
: lacking propriety : unsuitable
incongruous manners
incongruously adverb
incongruousness noun

Did you know?

Incongruous is a spin-off of its antonym, congruous, which means "in agreement, harmony, or correspondence." Etymologists are in agreement about the origin of both words: they trace to the Latin congruus, from the verb congruere, which means "to come together" or "to agree." The dates of these words' first uses in English match up pretty well, too. Both words are first known to have appeared in English in the early 1580s.

Examples of incongruous in a Sentence

There is something incongruous about Oslo. Hugh C. McDonald, The Hour of the Blue Fox, 1975
… it would be as incongruous to meet her at the end of a chapter as it would be to see the dawn break in the west … Herman Wouk, Aurora Dawn, 1947
He ate enormously, with a zest which seemed incongruous with his spare frame. Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, 1915
His outburst seemed incongruous to those who know him well. there's an incongruous modernism to the actor's performance in this period piece
Recent Examples on the Web Eco Material Technologies: Executive Summary Eco Material Technologies is a high-tech cement company—a combination of words that seems incongruous but is nonetheless completely appropriate. Erik Kobayashi-Solomon, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 His depiction of Kennedy’s private prayer was so incongruous with the actual events that Sotomayor included photographs in her dissent, in an attempt to set the record straight. Charles McCrary, The New Republic, 3 Nov. 2023 For incongruous mug shot photography, Warhol now has some real competition in the longevity sweepstakes. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2023 Neal regularly pairs incongruous items together in this series, challenging viewers to think outside the box. Hannah Jackson, Vogue, 18 Oct. 2023 But overall, one sentiment shared by many was simply a weariness with their complex and often incongruous mix of feelings. Erin Nolan, New York Times, 14 Oct. 2023 That seemed both incongruous and a bit of overkill (no pun intended). Brad Auerbach, Spin, 6 Oct. 2023 There’s an Elizabeth Line Tube station called Maryland, which struck me as about as incongruous as a station on the Red Line called Piccadilly Circus. John Kelly, Washington Post, 4 Sep. 2023 Coined by stylist Allison Bornstein, the fashion philosophy advocates for people to wear shoes that are incongruous with the rest of their outfit. Hannah Jackson, Vogue, 5 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'incongruous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin incongruus, from Latin in- + congruus congruous

First Known Use

1582, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of incongruous was in 1582


Dictionary Entries Near incongruous

Cite this Entry

“Incongruous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​con·​gru·​ous (ˈ)in-ˈkäŋ-grə-wəs How to pronounce incongruous (audio)
: not harmonious, suitable, or proper
incongruous colors
incongruousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on incongruous

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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