in·​con·​ti·​nence | \ (ˌ)in-ˈkän-tə-nən(t)s How to pronounce incontinence (audio) \

Definition of incontinence

: the quality or state of being incontinent We may reasonably trust … that public sobriety will reassert itself over the political and intellectual incontinence that currently commands the headlines.— Woody West : such as
a : inability of the body to control the evacuative functions of urination or defecation : partial or complete loss of bladder or bowel control fecal incontinence urinary incontinence — see also stress incontinence, urge incontinence
b : failure to restrain sexual appetite It is true that the religion of the missionaries has … effected some good. It has restrained the vices of theft and incontinence.— Herman Melville

Examples of incontinence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There is no evidence that episiotomies heal better than natural tears either, and the procedure has been linked to long-term problems like fecal incontinence. Cassandra Willyard, New York Times, "Episiotomy Rates Are Dropping, but Some Doctors Still Snip," 17 Apr. 2020 Nor will America hand over its sensitive satellite images to minnows like Bosnia-Herzegovina or North Macedonia—the president’s digital incontinence notwithstanding. The Economist, "Donald Trump is set to rip up another arms-control treaty," 22 Oct. 2019 My mom died after weeks of incontinence and falls, having lost her ability to speak and, eventually, even to gesture, returned to an infant-like dependency. Sara B. Franklin, New York Times, "How Daughtering Prepared Me for Mothering," 17 Apr. 2020 The problem is most common in low-resource settings and the mother’s lose their babies and cause incontinence. Rachel Dissell, cleveland, "Expectant moms, hospitals grapple with coronavirus uncertainties," 30 Mar. 2020 According to a 2018 study published by the Israel Medical Association, pregnancy and childbirth can damage the pelvic floor causing incontinence (both kinds), chronic pain, and even organ prolapse. Gabrielle Canon, USA TODAY, "5 California bills likely to make waves this legislative session," 1 Feb. 2020 Such incontinence is estimated to affect 3 percent to 17 percent of women and sometimes becomes severe after age 70., "J&J agrees to $117m settlement over pelvic mesh devices - The Boston Globe," 18 Oct. 2019 Such incontinence is estimated to affect 3% to 17% of women and sometimes becomes severe after age 70. Linda A. Johnson, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska to receive $1.3M in Johnson & Johnson multistate settlement over pelvic mesh devices," 18 Oct. 2019 Erectile dysfunction can occur, along with urinary incontinence. Jon Kelvey,, "For low-risk prostate cancer, active surveillance often beats surgery," 16 Oct. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incontinence

Time Traveler for incontinence

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for incontinence

Last Updated

8 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incontinence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for incontinence


in·​con·​ti·​nence | \ (ˈ)in-ˈkänt-ᵊn-ən(t)s How to pronounce incontinence (audio) \

Medical Definition of incontinence

1 : inability or failure to restrain sexual appetite
2 : inability of the body to control the evacuative functions fecal incontinence — see stress incontinence, urge incontinence

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on incontinence

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!