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 Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak The card can be used free — but some optional services can incur fees, including a $2 withdrawal fee after the first withdrawal, 25 cents for a balance inquiry and $5 for more than one in-person withdrawal. NBC News, "People are accidentally throwing out their stimulus payments — because they look like junk mail," 28 May 2020 All those who remain who make over $60,000 will incur salary reductions. Susan Slusser,, "A’s institute significant furloughs, salary reductions," 26 May 2020 At 42 feet, numerous homes in the northern portions of Falmouth near the river become flooded on the first level, and portions of Butler also incur major flooding. Jennie Key,, "Cincinnati weather: As rain tapers off, flooding is still a worry," 20 May 2020 Walmart incurred incremental costs of nearly $900 million related to its response to Covid-19. Matthew Boyle,, "Walmart Sales Soar on Consumer Stockpiling and Online Shift," 19 May 2020 One salon owner in Salem, Ore., incurred $14,000 in fines for violating a stay-at-home order. New York Times, "As States Reopen, Governors Balance Existing Risks With New Ones," 17 May 2020 Bottom line: Like just about everything these days, going to your doctor or another medical setting as the country opens up incurs some risk. Claire Gillespie,, "Is It Safe to Go to the Doctor’s Office For Non-COVID Care Right Now?," 15 May 2020 That group would not incur a reduction in work hours. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "University of Wisconsin athletic department asks top-paid coaches to take pay cuts, reduces hours for others," 9 May 2020 While about half of the money is designated for emergency grants for students needing to cover housing, food, healthcare, and course materials, the other half can be used for COVID-19 incurred financial losses. Sarah Midkiff,, "How Teachers & Faculty Will Benefit From The $12.5 Billion Education Relief Fund," 7 May 2020

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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Time Traveler for incur

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for incur

Last Updated

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for incur


How to pronounce incur (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of incur

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


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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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