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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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 incumbent for the an at-large seat, Shireen Ghorbani, is now just 84 votes ahead of Republican Laurie Stringham. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Ghorbani, Stringham now neck-and-neck for County Council as Democrats slip in their election bids," 12 Nov. 2020 In South Carolina, for instance, the Republican incumbent, Sen. Lindsey Graham, won relatively easily over Jaime Harrison, despite the fact that polls showed a tight race there. Nick Corasaniti, Star Tribune, "Election officials nationwide find no evidence of voting fraud," 10 Nov. 2020 In South Carolina, for instance, the Republican incumbent, Senator Lindsey Graham, won relatively easily over Jaime Harrison, despite the fact that polls showed a tight race there. Nick Corasaniti, New York Times, "The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud," 10 Nov. 2020 The United Teachers of New Orleans backed several pro-charter candidates, including one incumbent, Nolan Marshall Jr., who’s in a runoff. Clancy Dubos, NOLA.com, "Not over yet: Key races headed to runoffs in New Orleans," 9 Nov. 2020 In Alabama, Democratic incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, the attorney who prosecuted the 16th Street Baptist Church bombers, lost his reelection bid to Republican Tommy Tuberville, a former college football coach. Mark Olalde, USA TODAY, "Climate Point: As vote counts continue, Biden vows Day 1 climate action," 6 Nov. 2020 The historically red state of Arizona has pivoted to elect Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly, who ousted Republican incumbent Sen. Martha McSally on Tuesday. Julia Musto, Fox News, "Democrat Mark Kelly wins Arizona Senate seat, ousting incumbent McSally," 4 Nov. 2020 But as the state turned red, bettors perhaps spooked by Trump’s surprising victory in 2016 poured money in on the incumbent, which defied his expectation. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, "Biden-Trump election has been a roller-coaster ride for bettors," 4 Nov. 2020 Democratic victories are considered less likely in Kentucky, where former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath is trying to unseat Mr. McConnell, and Texas, where Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is running against three-term GOP incumbent Sen. John Cornyn. Kristina Peterson, WSJ, "Democrats Once Seen as Long Shots Are Now Contenders for Senate," 14 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The last time an incumbent president was defeated, in 1992, President George H.W. Bush met with then-President-elect Bill Clinton about two weeks after the election. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Biden: I'll meet with Trump if invited," 24 Nov. 2020 After incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took office in November 2018, his government had a hard time figuring out how much the Maldives owed China. Nectar Gan, CNN, "A tale of two bridges: India and China vying for influence in the Maldives," 24 Nov. 2020 Before this year, Bush the Elder was the most recent incumbent president to be defeated at the polls. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "Meet the in-laws, &c.," 23 Nov. 2020 This message helped to steady the Biden campaign through an unprecedented general election race defined by the Covid pandemic and deranged by the anti-democratic and conspiratorial tirades of an incumbent president. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "What Now?," 19 Nov. 2020 Anyone seeking to spread untruths this year had many options that didn’t involve mastering AI algorithms, including tapping out a Facebook post, booting up Photoshop—or retweeting the incumbent president. Tom Simonite, Wired, "What Happened to the Deepfake Threat to the Election?," 16 Nov. 2020 After Thursday evening's voting results left no path to victory for incumbent President Donald Trump, the Friday tallies essentially ended the count. Caitlin Mcglade, The Arizona Republic, "In Arizona, the final votes and the final call go for Biden," 14 Nov. 2020 Seventy-seven million people voted for Joe Biden, the most ever for a Presidential candidate—an estimable accomplishment in the face of an incumbent President. Michael Luo, The New Yorker, "The Work of Saving Democracy Must Go On After Trump," 12 Nov. 2020 Democratic challenger Joe Biden, a longtime senator and former vice president under Barack Obama, leads incumbent Republican Donald Trump in Georgia by a margin so narrow that the state announced there would be a recount. Jace Evans, USA TODAY, "'We got to focus on the really important things': Georgia election official jokes about importance of Bulldogs football," 7 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for incumbent

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for incumbent

Last Updated

15 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incumbent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incumbent. Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for incumbent

incumbent

noun
How to pronounce incumbent (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incumbent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who holds a particular office or position

incumbent

adjective
How to pronounce incumbent (audio)

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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