incumbent

noun
in·​cum·​bent | \ in-ˈkəm-bənt How to pronounce incumbent (audio) \

Definition of incumbent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the holder of an office or ecclesiastical benefice
2 : one that occupies a particular position or place

incumbent

adjective
in·​cum·​bent | \ in-ˈkəm-bənt How to pronounce incumbent (audio) \

Definition of incumbent (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : imposed as a duty : obligatory incumbent on us to take action
2 : having the status of an incumbent (see incumbent entry 1) the team's incumbent third baseman especially : occupying a specified office the incumbent mayor
3 : lying or resting on something else
4 : bent over so as to rest on or touch an underlying surface

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Synonyms & Antonyms for incumbent

Synonyms: Adjective

compulsory, forced, imperative, involuntary, mandatory, necessary, nonelective, obligatory, peremptory, required

Antonyms: Adjective

elective, optional, voluntary

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The Religious History of Incumbent

Noun

When incumbent was first used in English in the 15th century, it referred to someone who occupied a benefice—a paid position in a church. This was often a lifetime appointment; the person could only be forced to leave the office in the case of certain specific legal conflicts. In the mid-17th century, incumbent came to refer to anyone holding any office, including elected positions. These days, in the American political system, incumbent generally refers to someone who is the current holder of a position during an election to fill that position. Incumbent came to English through Anglo-French and derives from the Latin incumbere, meaning "to lie down on."

Examples of incumbent in a Sentence

Noun

Because the statehouse now determines voting districts, the current map generally ensures that incumbents face minimal challenges to re-election. — Terry McCarthy, Time, 20 Dec. 2004 When Reagan and Clinton were seeking re-election, they didn't go after their opponents directly, in part because they didn't have to. Those incumbents knew that there's a point at which strong and tough can look weak and desperate. — Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, 9 Aug. 2004 Jane Austen was born into the downwardly mobile branch of an upper-middle-class family.  … None of the Austen children could inherit the family home from their father, a Church of England clergyman; after his death it would go to the next incumbent. — Kevin Barry, New York Times Book Review, 7 Dec. 1997 Voters will have the chance to see the incumbent and her opponent in a series of three debates. Incumbents often have an advantage in elections.

Adjective

It is incumbent upon the press to act not in its own best interests, but in society's best interests. — Carll Tucker, Saturday Review, 23 June 1979 … the various types of obligation incumbent on the members of the profession. — R. M. MacIver, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 1955 … Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance. — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859 it is incumbent upon you to attend every staff meeting
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The incumbents are Craig Goldman and Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Bill Zedler and Tony Tinderholt of Arlington and Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, who is not seeking re-election. Dallas News, "With Trump at the top of the ticket, Republicans, Democrats prepare for epic 2020 Texas fight," 5 July 2019 Cicilline braved a run to unseat Cianci in 2002 at a time when the incumbent was fending off corruption charges but still intent on winning a seventh term. Washington Post, "Meet Big Tech’s new foe - a congressman who fought City Hall," 2 July 2019 Goldberg, speaking before County Council on Tuesday, warned against the dangers of having a safe office from which an incumbent could be re-elected with little to no serious opposition. Robert Higgs, cleveland.com, "Opponents of plan to return to elected Cuyahoga County sheriff stir memories of the corrupt days of Gerald McFaul," 17 June 2019 If neither of those is satisfied, the incumbent loses. Brendan Lind, The Conversation, "The most unpopular presidential election winner ever could win again in 2020," 10 June 2019 Sixty percent of Denver voters cast their ballot for someone other than the incumbent. Doug Friednash, The Denver Post, "Friednash: Hancock’s victory in the face of uncertainty pales in comparison to the mayor’s other life challenges," 9 June 2019 When the incumbent declined to run again, the race attracted national attention. Rebecca Gale, Marie Claire, "Elise Stefanik Is Going to Bring Women Back to the GOP," 25 Mar. 2019 While Cruz was projected to be the winner, according to FiveThirtyEight, O’Rourke trailed closely in the polls and wildly out-earned the incumbent. Christianna Silva, Teen Vogue, "2018 Midterms: Beto O'Rourke Appears to Have Lost to Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate Race," 7 Nov. 2018 More on the Debates Mr. Biden has focused his attention squarely on President Trump, warning that the Republican incumbent could damage the country beyond repair if given a second term. Ken Thomas, WSJ, "Joe Biden May See Sharp Knives on Crowded Debate Stage," 24 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Hegar is coming off a close 2018 loss to incumbent Rep. John Carter of Round Rock. Gromer Jeffers Jr., Dallas News, "Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Bell running for Senate seat held by John Cornyn," 3 July 2019 The incumbent president was formally announcing his re-election bid in front of 20,000 people, and neither MSNBC nor CNN deemed it newsworthy enough to interrupt its typical nightly lineup? Gary Abernathy, The Denver Post, "Commentary: Good journalism is gasping for air," 24 June 2019 The same was true for Trempealeau and Rusk Counties in Wisconsin, where a Democrat, Tony Evers, ousted the incumbent Republican governor, Scott Walker, a strong supporter of the president, in 2018. Michael Tackett, New York Times, "Trump Promised a Manufacturing Renaissance. What Happens in 2020 in Places That Lost Those Jobs?," 24 June 2019 His succession was the first leadership transition in Ethiopian history not precipitated by revolution or an incumbent’s death. Joe Parkinson, WSJ, "Ethiopia, in the Midst of a Political Crisis, Foils Coup Attempt," 23 June 2019 These two factors have been compounded by incumbent president Yoweri Museveni’s determination to be in power indefinitely. Moses Khisa, Quartz Africa, "President Museveni has twisted Uganda’s constitution to cling to power," 21 June 2019 In time, the Libra—due to launch in 2020—could become a viable competitor to costly incumbent financial services companies. Matthew De Silva, Quartz, "Facebook’s crypto presents a massive privacy problem," 20 June 2019 The WFW Action Fund was created following the 2018 midterms when Rep. Carol Miller was the only non-incumbent Republican woman to win an election to the House. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Biden draws fire as focus turns to South Carolina," 19 June 2019 Despite the braying and bravado, however, Trump is perhaps in the worst position of any incumbent president in recent history. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Trump’s Kick-Off Rally Showcases What the President Does Best," 19 June 2019

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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incumbent

Noun and Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin incumbent-, incumbens, present participle of incumbere to lie down on, from in- + -cumbere to lie down; akin to cubare to lie

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Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for incumbent

The first known use of incumbent was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for incumbent

incumbent

noun

English Language Learners Definition of incumbent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who holds a particular office or position

incumbent

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of incumbent (Entry 2 of 2)

formal : holding an office or position

incumbent

noun
in·​cum·​bent | \ in-ˈkəm-bənt How to pronounce incumbent (audio) \

Kids Definition of incumbent

: the holder of an office or position a reelected incumbent

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