incur

verb
in·​cur | \ in-ˈkər \
incurred; incurring

Definition of incur

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.

Examples of incur in a Sentence

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?
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Recent Examples on the Web

According to the school district’s chief operating officer Raymond Votto Jr., Cranston schools have incurred $45,859 in unpaid lunch debt and had to write off more than $95,000 from September 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "How states and crowdfunding are tackling the growing problem of student lunch debt," 27 Dec. 2018 Jamie and Claire incur the wrath of the entire town by taking Rufus to River Run for an emergency operation, which is when the episode takes a turn. Mehera Bonner, Harper's BAZAAR, "Outlander Season 4 Episode 2: Claire and Jamie Face the Realities of Life in America," 12 Nov. 2018 Google, meanwhile, did indeed incur the wrath of the lawmakers. Casey Newton, The Verge, "Congress is getting better at questioning social media executives," 6 Sep. 2018 Unlike drivers who work for third-party delivery companies, independent contractors are responsible for all fuel costs and vehicle maintenance incurred while on the road. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "Amazon is cutting costs with its own delivery service — but its drivers don’t receive benefits," 26 Dec. 2018 Related Violating drone-operating rules in the U.K. can incur hefty fines and a prison sentence of up to five years, though penalties are typically more lenient. Robert Wall, WSJ, "U.K. Police Detain Two Over Drone Activity at London’s Gatwick Airport," 22 Dec. 2018 The rejection of the Copyright Directive will be a relief to US tech giants, who would have had to incur serious costs to adapt to the ruling. James Vincent, The Verge, "EU sends controversial internet copyright reforms back to the drawing board," 5 July 2018 Teradata expects to incur costs related to the move, including severance, transition support and other expenses. Mike Freeman, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Teradata Corp. to move headquarters from Ohio to San Diego," 6 June 2018 Increasing levels of excellence seemed to incur a progressively harsher toll on the chess players. Alex Hutchinson, Outside Online, "Do Olympic Medalists Live Longer Than Chess Masters?," 15 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of incur

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for incur

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

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Statistics for incur

Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incur

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

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More Definitions for incur

incur

verb

English Language Learners Definition of incur

: to cause yourself to have or experience (something unpleasant or unwanted)

incur

verb
in·​cur | \ in-ˈkər \
incurred; incurring

Kids Definition of incur

: to experience as a result of a person's own actions Because of his behavior he incurred suspicion.
in·​cur | \ in-ˈkər \
incurred; incurring

Legal Definition of incur

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on incur

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with incur

Spanish Central: Translation of incur

Nglish: Translation of incur for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of incur for Arabic Speakers

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