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

Hickenlooper became the immediate front-runner in a crowded Democratic field aiming to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents seeking reelection next year in a state where Trump is deeply unpopular. Los Angeles Times, "Democratic 2020 field now at 21 as Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton drops out," 23 Aug. 2019 The former Denver mayor failed to have a break-out moment in the race and has been facing mounting pressure to run for U.S. Senate in Colorado against Republican incumbent Cory Gardner. Caitlin Conant, CBS News, "2020 Daily Trail Markers: Democrats rally to Tlaib, Omar over Israel ban," 15 Aug. 2019 As a result, Cox and five other Republican incumbents face tougher dynamics in their bids for reelection. Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, "House Speaker Kirk Cox launches early TV ad as he defends redrawn Virginia district," 12 Aug. 2019 The Tea Party movement ousted a host of Republican incumbents in 2010 before sweeping to victory in that year’s midterms. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Incredible Shrinking GOP," 5 Aug. 2019 Hickenlooper, a former two-term Colorado governor, could be trying to deny a second term to Sen. Cory Gardner, the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: For the Democrats, it’s winnowing time," 4 Aug. 2019 Hickenlooper, a former two-term Colorado governor, could be trying to deny a second term to Senator Cory Gardner, the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. George Will, National Review, "For the Democrats, It’s Winnowing Time," 4 Aug. 2019 Hickenlooper, a former two-term Colorado governor, could be trying to deny a second term to Sen. Cory Gardner, the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. George F. Will, The Denver Post, "Will: For the Democrats, it’s winnowing time," 4 Aug. 2019 But polls show the Republican incumbent with a small slice of Latino support. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Sleeping Giant: How the Latino vote could influence California and the presidency in 2020," 2 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Tuberville, who is running for the Senate seat now held by incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, had a message for Republican office-holders in attendance. Lee Roop | Lroop@al.com, al, "Trump ‘saved this country,’ Tuberville says in Senate campaign stop," 17 Aug. 2019 Polls have shown that Democratic voters in Texas would like O'Rourke to run for Senate again, this time against GOP incumbent Sen. John Cornyn. Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY, "Beto O'Rourke: 'I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate'," 16 Aug. 2019 National Democrats view Gardner, a former congressman who narrowly defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in 2014 during a wave election year for Republicans, as vulnerable. Fox News, "Hickenlooper expected to end White House bid Thursday, sources say," 15 Aug. 2019 In 2018, voter turnout surged by double digits, and Democrat Beto O’Rourke got within 3 percentage points of unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Los Angeles Times, "In suburban Texas, ‘it feels like there’s no place for lifelong Republicans like me’," 13 Aug. 2019 Some Democrats wish that former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke would run against three-term incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, but O’Rourke, the incredibly shrinking candidate, always has been a figment of his and others’ imaginations. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: For the Democrats, it’s winnowing time," 4 Aug. 2019 Some Democrats wish that former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke would run against three-term incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, but O’Rourke, the incredibly shrinking candidate, always has been a figment of his and others’ imaginations. George F. Will, The Denver Post, "Will: For the Democrats, it’s winnowing time," 4 Aug. 2019 Long ended up losing the 2012 race to incumbent Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Darlene Superville, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump pardons conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza," 31 May 2018 Republicans held the House in 2012 but failed to unseat the incumbent Democrat in the White House. Nr Editors, National Review, "The Week," 25 July 2019

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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5 Sep 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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