incur

verb

in·​cur in-ˈkər How to pronounce incur (audio)
incurred; incurring

transitive verb

: to become liable or subject to : bring down upon oneself
incur expenses

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Incur vs. Occur

Incur bears a strong family resemblance to another English verb, occur. If you are confused by their similarities, a glance back at their Latin roots might help you to tell them apart.

Both words have a common root in Latin currere, meaning “to run.” In the case of incur, currere was combined with Latin in “into,” which produced the meaning “to run into.” In English, the one who incurs, or “runs into,” is most often a person and the thing incurred is usually some self-inflicted negative consequence (such as a debt or somebody’s foul temper). The ancestor of occur, by contrast, paired Latin ob “in the way” with currere, producing the basic meaning “to run in the way of,” or “to present itself.” In English, the verb came to apply strictly to events, things, or ideas; something (such as a tornado) that occurs, or “presents itself,” appears or happens; a thought that occurs, or “presents itself” to someone, comes into that person’s mind.

To summarize: a person (or something composed of people, like a company) incurs, or becomes subject to, something negative; something occurs, or happens, or an idea occurs to, or comes into the mind of, someone.

Example Sentences

Submitting students to the rigors of learning seemed only to incur the wrath of many of them … Ben Marcus, Time, 8 Jan. 2001 Shakespeare … took plots and characters from wherever he pleased, rarely acknowledging sources, and he saw so little sanctity in his own words that anyone could print them who cared to incur the expense—which did not include royalties to Shakespeare. Walter Kendrick, New York Times Book Review, 29 Oct. 1989 To be too good-looking is sometimes to incur the dislike, if not the hatred, of the ordinary-looking. Joseph Epstein, The Middle of My Tether, 1983 What did he do to incur such wrath?
Recent Examples on the Web Analysts say Europe is now unlikely to run dangerously low on gas unless the winter is exceptionally cold, or pipelines from non-Russian suppliers incur significant damage. Joe Wallace, WSJ, 26 Oct. 2022 Now, with the state launching the mandatory Universal Meals Program, parents will be sure that their children can get at least two free, full meals at schools daily and not have to incur the expense for preparing breakfast and lunch for them. Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2022 Waters said Florida is a peak catastrophe zone for reinsurers, and those with exposure will likely incur meaningful losses. Alexis Christoforous, ABC News, 29 Sep. 2022 Lightning works by creating batches of Bitcoin transactions and then rapidly verifying them—a much cheaper and faster alternative to the base Bitcoin network where transactions can take up to an hour to clear and incur a significant fee. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, 27 Sep. 2022 Divvy bikes are permitted at the event, but users will incur overtime fees if a Divvy bike is used for more than 30 minutes without re-docking. Kori Rumore, Chicago Tribune, 1 Sep. 2022 The phase one work will incur no costs on port users like commercial shipping companies. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 29 Oct. 2022 Consequently, certain brain cells can incur damage that results in the post-stroke difficulties that someone like Fetterman faces. Benjamin Ryan, NBC News, 28 Oct. 2022 Ultimately, the company expects to incur between $3.2 billion and $4.3 billion in pre-tax restructuring charges through 2024, the filing said. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, 24 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incur.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English incurren, from Latin incurrere, literally, to run into, from in- + currere to run — more at car

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of incur was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near incur

Cite this Entry

“Incur.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incur. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

incur

verb
in·​cur in-ˈkər How to pronounce incur (audio)
incurred; incurring
1
: to meet with (as an inconvenience)
incur expenses
2
: to bring upon oneself
incur punishment

Legal Definition

incur

transitive verb
in·​cur in-ˈkər How to pronounce incur (audio)
incurred; incurring
: to become liable or subject to : bring down upon oneself
incur obligations
incur expenses

More from Merriam-Webster on incur

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