1

incumbent

noun in·cum·bent \ in-ˈkəm-bənt \
Updated on: 6 Dec 2017

Definition of incumbent

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

incumbent was our Word of the Day on 02/11/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of incumbent in a Sentence

  1. Because the statehouse now determines voting districts, the current map generally ensures that incumbents face minimal challenges to re-election. —Terry McCarthyTime20 Dec. 2004
  2. 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 AlterNewsweek9 Aug. 2004
  3. 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 BarryNew York Times Book Review7 Dec. 1997
  4. Voters will have the chance to see the incumbent and her opponent in a series of three debates.

  5. Incumbents often have an advantage in elections.

Recent Examples of incumbent from the Web

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.

The Religious History of incumbent

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."

Origin and Etymology of incumbent

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


2

incumbent

adjective in·cum·bent \ in-ˈkəm-bənt \

Definition of incumbent

1 : imposed as a duty : obligatory
  • incumbent on us to take action
2 : having the status of an incumbent (see 1incumbent)
  • 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

Examples of incumbent in a Sentence

  1. It is incumbent upon the press to act not in its own best interests, but in society's best interests. —Carll TuckerSaturday Review23 June 1979
  2. … the various types of obligation incumbent on the members of the profession. —R. M. MacIverAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social ScienceJanuary 1955
  3. … Mr. Lorry felt it incumbent on him to speak a word or two of reassurance. —Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities1859
  4. it is incumbent upon you to attend every staff meeting

Recent Examples of incumbent from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of incumbent



INCUMBENT Defined for English Language Learners

incumbent

noun

Definition of incumbent for English Language Learners

  • : a person who holds a particular office or position


incumbent

adjective

Definition of incumbent for English Language Learners

  • : holding an office or position


INCUMBENT Defined for Kids

incumbent

noun in·cum·bent \ in-ˈkəm-bənt \

Definition of incumbent for Students

: the holder of an office or position
  • a reelected incumbent


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

of very fine texture or delicate form

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu-jedi-training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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