incumbent

noun
in·cum·bent | \ in-ˈkəm-bənt \

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 \

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

Mandelman, a progressive, beat incumbent Jeff Sheehy in the June 5 special election for the seat, which covers the Castro, Glen Park, Diamond Heights and Noe Valley areas. Trisha Thadani, SFChronicle.com, "Rafael Mandelman sworn in as San Francisco’s new District Eight supervisor," 12 July 2018 Additionally, Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting, is running for the board’s countywide seat against incumbent Donna Korn. Dan Sweeney, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Who do you support for what could be the most closely watched local elections this year?," 12 July 2018 The multiracial Californian turned Floridian also looks and sounds like America would like to look and sound (in contrast to the pasty and inarticulate incumbent) if America were an action figure. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "The Rock Rules Out 2020 Run," 12 July 2018 Challenger Liz Walsh saw her margin of victory over incumbent Jon Weinstein grow from two votes to six. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Recount under way in Baltimore County executive primary race," 12 July 2018 In districts that are traditionally highly partisan, incumbents or primary winners often run for reelection unopposed. Meagan Fredette, Teen Vogue, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won New York's 15th District Reform Party Primary Even Though She Wasn't Running," 11 July 2018 The immediate challenge is to find a message that resonates against a popular incumbent. Adrian Walker, BostonGlobe.com, "The Democrats running for governor must be wondering when the cavalry arrives," 11 July 2018 The candidate, who’s running against Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik in New York's 21st Congressional District, in the northernmost part of the state, was rebuked by others for her silence on the issue in the public. Lukas Mikelionis, Fox News, "New York Dem running for US House seat backs gun ban -- but won't say so publicly," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, other possible 2020 Democratic contenders — along with party leaders in both Houses, and a swarm of red and purple state incumbents — have pushed for a more cautious approach. Rebecca Shabad /, NBC News, "The growing Democratic divide over icing ICE," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

At least 10 other people have declared for the race or expressed interest, including incumbent Rahm Emanuel, the man Green wants to unseat. Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root, "Chicago Activist Rides Progressive Wave in Mayor's Race," 5 July 2018 According to a Quinnipiac University poll released this week, Stewart trails incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine by 18 points ahead of the midterm election. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "Virginia GOP chairman John Whitbeck announces resignation," 30 June 2018 Democrat Katie Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), edged out fellow UCI law professor Dave Min for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Mimi Walters in the November general election. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "Science candidates: High-tech smarts aren’t enough for defeated Obama aide," 28 June 2018 Democrat Tedra Cobb won the 21st district primary in a landslide and will face Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "2018 Midterm Primaries: New York, Utah, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Colorado," 27 June 2018 This involves both entry-level opportunities through our credit programs and ongoing incumbent training for up-skilling existing workforce. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Education, training crucial to energy industry success," 8 July 2018 Copyright aside, the hijacking of the process raises fundamental questions about how incumbent platforms and supposedly objective operators abuse their position. David Meyer, Fortune, "Not So Fast: Europe's Controversial New Copyright Law Was Just Held Up After an Intense Lobbying War," 5 July 2018 The news of Amazon’s entry had a predictable effect on incumbent firms. The Economist, "Amazon takes a big step into online pharma," 5 July 2018 The American Bankers Association, which has spent months overhauling its political operations, for the first time is running television ads in support of incumbent lawmakers from both parties who have backed industry-friendly policies. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Mnuchin is in denial about the pain Trump's tariffs are inducing," 13 July 2018

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

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

Adjective

see incumbent entry 1

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Phrases Related to incumbent

incumbent on/upon

Statistics for incumbent

Last Updated

5 Sep 2018

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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)

: holding an office or position

incumbent

noun
in·cum·bent | \ in-ˈkəm-bənt \

Kids Definition of incumbent

: the holder of an office or position a reelected incumbent

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