incur

verb
in·​cur | \ in-ˈkər How to pronounce incur (audio) \
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

That meant incurring even more student debt and losing more of my sanity (and hair) to graduate and take the bar…again. Maria Kari, Glamour, "Stop Telling Kim Kardashian, Possible Future Lawyer, to 'Stay In Her Lane'," 21 Apr. 2019 Copa Airlines was one of the first to do so in May, giving passengers the option to change or cancel their flights without incurring penalties. Sebastian Modak, Condé Nast Traveler, "What Travelers Need to Know About the Unrest in Nicaragua," 3 Aug. 2018 The agency further announced that state employees would soon be required to use a wellness app called Go365, incurring penalties for failing to meet their health goals or for declining to use the system altogether. Emmarie Huetteman, Washington Post, "Unwieldy Health Costs Often Stand Between Teachers And Fatter Paychecks," 18 June 2018 The agency further announced that state employees would soon be required to use a wellness app called Go365, incurring penalties for failing to meet their health goals or for declining to use the system altogether. Emmarie Huetteman, USA TODAY, "Unwieldy health costs often stand between teachers and higher pay," 13 June 2018 Vaccaro started 12 games, netting three interceptions and 48 tackles, but found frustrating spots during the year as he was pulled from the game against the Patriots and struggled at times with incurring penalties and giving up big plays. Clyde Verdin, NOLA.com, "Free agency decisions loom for New Orleans Saints," 20 Feb. 2018 Pointing this out can incur the wrath of the president. Katie Rogers, New York Times, "Is North Korea a Nuclear Threat or Not? The President Now Says It Is," 22 June 2018 Pintilie was a provocateur by the standards of Communist Romania, incurring the wrath of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s leader from the mid-1960s until his overthrow and execution in 1989. kansascity, "In memoriam list for May 20: Author Tom Wolfe, Margot ‘Lois Lane’ Kidder | The Kansas City Star," 20 May 2018 But in 2005 this backwater bank incurred the wrath and might of the world’s financial hegemon. The Economist, "The long arm of the dollar," 19 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

3 Jun 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

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

incur

verb
in·​cur | \ in-ˈkər How to pronounce incur (audio) \
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 How to pronounce incur (audio) \
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

Comments on incur

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