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

In the 2014 primary election for governor, turnout was 8.2% and in 2010, the last time the race had no incumbent, the turnout was 15.2% and 95% of that vote went to Democratic candidates. Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, "Why Democratic candidates for Michigan governor want Detroit votes," 5 July 2018 And the board will change fundamentally in January — in the November election five seats will be decided, only two held by incumbents. Evan Sernoffsky, SFChronicle.com, "SF police effort to get Tasers set back," 29 June 2018 Many of New York’s 27 Congressional district primaries were won by incumbents or uncontentesed candidates. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "2018 Midterm Primaries: New York, Utah, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Colorado," 27 June 2018 In the November general election, voters will select four to fill seats being vacated by incumbents. Jess Nocera, Howard County Times, "Voters to narrow a wide field for Howard school board," 25 June 2018 The jobs include an open mayor’s seat, three open commission seats, and two commission seats held by incumbents who are facing challengers. Anne Geggis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "19 candidates running for 6 seats, including mayor, in Pompano Beach," 22 June 2018 Delegates to the June 9 Indiana Republican Convention in Evansville will vote on the platform in addition to nominating three incumbents for the statewide GOP ticket: Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and Auditor Tera Klutz. Tony Cook, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana GOP poised to remove language supporting marriage between 'a man and a woman'," 1 June 2018 Trump has largely followed the direction of party leaders, declining to follow the counsel from some outside advisers by challenging incumbents. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, "Unprecedented? Trump aims to defy midterm campaign history," 31 May 2018 All three are squaring off in crowded primaries for open seats being vacated by incumbents who are leaving at the end of their terms. Chris Fuchs /, NBC News, "Midterm candidates bank on years of experience amidst wave of first timers," 16 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates with supporters at a victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley on June 26 in New York City. NBC News, "Broken in two: Democrats divided after Rep. Crowley's defeat," 28 June 2018 Crowley had been considered a candidate to become House speaker if Democrats win the majority in November. (June 27) AP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's defeat of incumbent New York Rep. Joe Crowley has the political world buzzing. Jessica Estepa, USA TODAY, "Before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, here are 5 of the biggest U.S. political upsets," 27 June 2018 South Carolina already had its upset election earlier this month when incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Sanford lost to state Rep. Katie Arrington after Mr. Trump blasted Sanford on Twitter. CBS News, "Primaries in 7 states tonight — live updates," 26 June 2018 In El Paso County’s 5th Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn faced a Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Owen Hill and Darryl Glenn, a county commissioner. James Anderson, The Seattle Times, "Democratic candidates in close race for governor nomination," 26 June 2018 Katie Arrington, a candidate for Congress in South Carolina who defeated incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary, was seriously injured in a car accident on Friday night, sustaining injuries that required surgery. Claire Zillman, Fortune, "Sarah Sanders Red Hen, Saudi Women to Drive, U.S. Open Pregnancy: Broadsheet June 25," 25 June 2018 Murphy, D-Winter Park, is running for re-election two years after defeating longtime Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica in 2016. Steven Lemongello, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Stephanie Murphy passes $2 million mark in fundraising," 11 July 2018 David DeHaas, a Republican running against incumbent Sen. Maryanne Jordan in Boise's District 17, was charged with misdemeanor obstructing or resisting arrest. Nicole Blanchard, idahostatesman, "Police: Idaho Senate candidate confronted officers with knife before his arrest," 10 July 2018 The last successful Democratic primary challenge in Massachusetts came in 2014, when Seth Moulton defeated incumbent Democratic Rep. John Tierney in the state's 6th Congressional District. Steve Leblanc, The Christian Science Monitor, "After New York's electoral upset, eyes turn to Massachusetts," 9 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

17 Oct 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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