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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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

The Yuma Republican is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for re-election in 2020 in a Senate only narrowly held by the GOP. Nic Garcia, The Denver Post, "John Hickenlooper drops out of 2020 presidential race, giving Colorado’s U.S. Senate race “serious thought”," 15 Aug. 2019 In its quest for profit – or purpose – Bytedance has tackled a number of incumbents. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "What Is Bytedance Searching For?—Data Sheet," 13 Aug. 2019 These seats represent the inroads Democrats made last year, but also the power of incumbents, who were able to eke out wins in what was hailed as a blue wave election cycle. Tara Golshan, Vox, "“Texodus,” House Democrats’ favorite new 2020 phenomenon, explained," 5 Aug. 2019 Two of 13 female incumbents — Representatives Martha Roby of Alabama and Susan W. Brooks of Indiana, who is a leader in candidate recruitment — and a handful of moderates are not planning to run again. Emily Cochrane, New York Times, "Will Hurd, Only Black Republican in House, Is Retiring From Congress," 1 Aug. 2019 After changing parties, most of the incumbents go on to lose re-election or retire from office. Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY, "Justin Amash: The few times a member of Congress has left a political party in recent history," 6 July 2019 Among Democrats, an unusually high number of incumbents are being challenged by liberal newcomers who aren't shy about attacking their opponents as ethically compromised and out of step with the party's base. CBS News, "Virginia holds primary election as political watchers look for 2020 trends," 11 June 2019 Even though Harp is a three-term incumbent with widespread name recognition, Elicker has raised more money and has more cash on hand for the crucial final week. Christopher Keating, courant.com, "In final days of New Haven mayoral primary race, Toni Harp and Justin M. Elicker fight for votes and donations," 5 Sep. 2019 At the moment, no Democratic incumbent looks to be in real danger. Paul Waldman, The Denver Post, "Waldman: Democrats’ chances of taking Senate just got better," 28 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

However, six of its incumbent governors ran as independents, including Alexander Beglov, the party’s former boss in St Petersburg. The Economist, "Local elections embarrass the Kremlin," 14 Sep. 2019 Abraham is running against the incumbent Democratic governor, who received 56% of votes when he was elected in 2015. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, "GOP candidate for Louisiana governor says there are only 2 genders and 'that’s the truth’," 22 Aug. 2019 But Connecticut’s advantage over its neighbors has been narrowing, thanks in part to three significant income-tax hikes since the 2007-09 recession, two of which came courtesy of the incumbent governor, Democrat Dannel Malloy. Stephen D. Eide, WSJ, "What’s the Matter With Connecticut?," 23 Nov. 2018 Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic nominee, spent the entire campaign with a prohibitive lead over her opponent in the gubernatorial race, and the incumbent Republican governor refused to endorse GOP nominee Bill Schuette. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Debbie Stabenow reelected to the Senate," 7 Nov. 2018 Jealous faces a tough general election in November against incumbent Republican governor Larry Hogan. Josh Hoxie, Fortune, "What Ocasio-Cortez’s Win Says About the Rise of the Left," 27 June 2018 Madaleno is one of seven candidates running to unseat incumbent Republican governor Larry Hogan, who is not mentioned in the ad. Eli Meixler, Time, "'Take That, Trump.' Maryland Gubernatorial Candidate Includes Same-Sex Kiss in Campaign Ad," 8 June 2018 On Wednesday, Buehler reiterated his call for the incumbent governor to participate in 10 debates or other joint public appearances around the state. Hillary Borrud, OregonLive.com, "Knute Buehler and Kate Brown's first debate topic is the number of debates," 30 May 2018 President Trump tweeted his support for the incumbent Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is up against Jan Morgan. Fox News, "Sen. Rubio on fears China is winning trade war with the US," 23 May 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 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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Last Updated

17 Oct 2019

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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)

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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