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

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 Bytedance, which has incurred the wrath of China's censors in the past, didn't immediately respond to WeChat messages and phone calls from Bloomberg News. Michael Norman,, "With the release of Oculus Go, several virtual reality films show the way forward," 2 May 2018 Bytedance, which has incurred the wrath of China’s censors in the past, didn’t immediately respond to WeChat messages and phone calls from Bloomberg News (bloomberg, +0.00%). Fortune, "Peppa Pig Is Reportedly the Latest Target of China's Internet Censorship Efforts," 1 May 2018 Recently, after the judge ordered that all filings be made in his courtroom, Van Dyke’s lawyers decided to file all their motions under seal to avoid incurring Gaughan’s possible wrath. Megan Crepeau,, "Judge in Van Dyke case holds unusual Saturday session, blasts defense for seeking to unseal filing," 28 Apr. 2018 For Assad, the incentive to notch incremental victories has, so far, been stronger than the disincentive to incur America’s wrath. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "The U.S. Airstrikes on Syria Turned Out to Be Very Conventional," 14 Apr. 2018 His 2017 thriller Mother! was an allegorical tale of the power of mother nature and the wages of incurring her wrath. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "A New TV Series Will Make You Believe the Earth Is an Organism," 23 Mar. 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

20 May 2019

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Time Traveler for incur

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

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More Definitions for incur



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

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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