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

Essential Meaning of incur

formal : to cause yourself to have or experience (something unpleasant or unwanted) incur expenses/debt What did he do to incur such wrath?

Full Definition of incur

transitive verb

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

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 Details about a financial penalty the plant might incur are still to come, Grumbles said. Christine Condon,, 17 Sep. 2021 That card might offset another cost people might incur. Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, 16 Sep. 2021 Funds that are actively managed might incur higher fees. Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2021 Companies across the United States — and even police departments — have opted to pay ransomware extortionists rather than suffer the loss of critical data or incur the cost to build computer systems up from scratch. New York Times, 13 May 2021 Retail managements should insist that their containers move before these deadlines; there is no reason to incur such costs. Walter Loeb, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 At the heart of those arrangements are trusts, legal agreements that allow people to stash away money and other assets so they are protected from creditors and incur few or no tax obligations for themselves or their heirs. Washington Post, 20 Dec. 2021 The statement lists the few options available for exemptions and lists some of the financial penalties and job losses that defying mandates could incur. Compiled Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 11 Oct. 2021 Anything farther out would incur an additional fee, the owners said. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3 Dec. 2021

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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Last Updated

24 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Incur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for incur


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.


transitive verb
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

More from Merriam-Webster on incur

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for incur

Nglish: Translation of incur for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of incur for Arabic Speakers


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