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

Out of the 35 Senate contests taking place Tuesday, 10 involve Democratic incumbents seeking re-election in states that Trump won, often handily. . Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Midterm Elections Are Almost Here—What You Need to Know Now," 5 Nov. 2018 Fusco said the three incumbents have supported salary increases and other issues important to teachers. Scott Travis, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Teachers union not endorsing any candidate with ties to Stoneman Douglas," 12 July 2018 In 2014, Coleman ran unsuccessfully to represent Kentucky's 55th House District but lost to the incumbent by 30 points. Tom Loftus, The Courier-Journal, "Andy Beshear becomes first to announce run for Kentucky governor," 9 July 2018 Weinstein was the sole incumbent on the County Council eligible for re-election. Kate Magill, Howard County Times, "Howard County Council incumbent ousted in primary by two votes," 6 July 2018 Your primary opponent, meanwhile, is male, 56, white, has three decades of experience, and isn’t only the incumbent but one of the most powerful figures in the Democratic party. Amanda Fitzsimons, Glamour, "It’s 2018, and Female Candidates Are Tweeting About Lipstick. Is This Progress?," 1 July 2018 After all, Crowley is the first Democratic incumbent to lose in the primary this cycle. Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor, "What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory says about Democrats’ future," 28 June 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In Florida, the race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, which Mr. Scott currently leads by 50.1% to 49.9%, looks headed for a recount. Andrew Duehren, WSJ, "Senate, House Seats Remain Unclaimed as Vote Counting Continues," 9 Nov. 2018 Rossi, 59, ran what was in some ways an incumbent-style campaign, refusing all but one debate and declining other invitations to appear at forums alongside Schrier. Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times, "Kim Schrier leads Dino Rossi in 8th Congressional District," 6 Nov. 2018 Wheeling her oxygen tank behind her, Aguirre came dressed to vote in an orange beanie and a BETO FOR SENATE T-shirt, determined to elect the El Paso representative over incumbent (and Republican) Senator Ted Cruz. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Watch This 77-Year-Old Texas Woman Get Emotional Over Voting for Senate Candidate Beto O'Rourke," 6 Nov. 2018 Corporate PACs donate the vast majority — 90 percent in the last midterm — of their money to incumbent candidates, who are much more likely to be elected than challengers. Rani Molla, Recode, "Tech employees are much more liberal than their employers — at least as far as the candidates they support," 31 Oct. 2018 Jim Cooper is the incumbent congressman, representing Tennessee's 5th Congressional District in U.S. House of Representatives, representing the Nashville area. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "Taylor Swift Endorses Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper, Two Democrats in Tennessee," 8 Oct. 2018 The current governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott, is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for the Senate. Alex Pappas, Fox News, "Putnam, DeSantis spar over Trump support, shootings in Fox News GOP debate in Florida," 28 June 2018 Within days of his narrow primary loss for governor in 2017 to former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, Stewart announced plans to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Ryan Nobles, CNN, "How Corey Stewart is dividing Republicans already," 13 June 2018 Polls close: Polls starting at 7pm central time, but some won’t close until 9pm North Dakota’s incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp faces a very tough re-election in the 2018 midterms. Jen Kirby, Vox, "What time the polls close in the June 12 primary states," 12 June 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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Last Updated

14 Nov 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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