competent

adjective

com·​pe·​tent ˈkäm-pə-tənt How to pronounce competent (audio)
1
: proper or rightly pertinent
2
: having requisite or adequate ability or qualities : fit
a competent teacher
a competent piece of work
3
: legally qualified or adequate
a competent witness
4
: having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way: such as
a
: having the capacity to initiate an immune response following exposure to an antigen
antibody production by immunologically competent B cells
b
of a bacterial cell : capable of taking up exogenous DNA (as from a plasmid) during genetic transformation
natural and artificially-produced competent cells
competently adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for competent

sufficient, enough, adequate, competent mean being what is necessary or desirable.

sufficient suggests a close meeting of a need.

sufficient savings

enough is less exact in suggestion than sufficient.

do you have enough food?

adequate may imply barely meeting a requirement.

the service was adequate

competent suggests measuring up to all requirements without question or being adequately adapted to an end.

had no competent notion of what was going on

Example Sentences

… he was tolerated, if not endorsed as the competent painter he was. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, 2005 The crafting of fine violins has proceeded for centuries as a secret art, handed down through apprenticeships from generation to generation. It takes 8 years, at least, to train a competent craftsman, decades to hone a master. Richard Lipkin, Science News, 3 Sept. 1994 "Resort cities're transient places," the detective argued. " … That doesn't mean the police aren't competent." Joseph Wambaugh, The Secrets of Harry Bright, 1985 … I discovered that Lieutenant Lincoln—a much-admired man hereabouts, and, I imagine, an exceedingly competent physician—was from Worcester … Alexander Woollcott, letter, 2 Oct. 1917 The defendant was declared competent to stand trial. any competent mechanic should be able to fix that See More
Recent Examples on the Web After Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was found mentally competent, a judge signed off on his application to defend himself in the murder case, a spokesman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office told Fox News Digital. Rebecca Rosenberg, Fox News, 4 Nov. 2022 The man has been in custody for several years since he was found not competent to stand trial after an arrest for planting a fake explosive outside the Guardian Building, a skyscraper in Detroit. Michael Balsamo, Sun Sentinel, 16 Sep. 2022 The man has been in custody for several years since he was found not competent to stand trial after an arrest for planting a fake explosive outside the Guardian Building, a skyscraper in Detroit. CBS News, 16 Sep. 2022 Actor Eddie Deezen is has been found not competent to stand trial in a nursing home burglary case because of a mental disorder. Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times, 8 Aug. 2022 Deezen, who played Eugene in the hit musical, was found not competent because of a mental disorder. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, 8 Aug. 2022 Politically, the storm provided DeSantis a platform to project a unifying tone in the final stretch of the campaign, displaying his ability to set aside the culture warrior role and shift into a competent crisis manager. Anthony Izaguirre, Chicago Tribune, 8 Nov. 2022 After his family moved from New York to Los Angeles, Spector seemed to find focus and escape in music — initially becoming a competent jazz guitarist before forming a high school trio, the Teddy Bears. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 4 Nov. 2022 Texas A&M finally scored more than 24 points -- hang the banner, Jimbo! -- and looked more competent with Conner Weigman at quarterback. John Talty | Jtalty@al.com, al, 30 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'competent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, suitable, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, from Latin competent-, competens, from present participle of competere — see compete

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of competent was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near competent

Cite this Entry

“Competent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/competent. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

competent

adjective

com·​pe·​tent ˈkäm-pət-ənt How to pronounce competent (audio)
: having the necessary ability or qualities : capable
a competent musician
competently adverb

Medical Definition

competent

adjective

com·​pe·​tent ˈkäm-pət-ənt How to pronounce competent (audio)
: having the capacity to function or develop in a particular way
specifically : having the capacity to respond (as by producing an antibody) to an antigenic determinant
immunologically competent cells

Legal Definition

competent

adjective

com·​pe·​tent ˈkäm-pə-tənt How to pronounce competent (audio)
1
: having or showing requisite or adequate ability or qualities
a competent lawyer
competent representation by counsel
2
a
: free from addiction or mental defect that renders one incapable of taking care of oneself or one's property
b
: capable of understanding one's position as a criminal defendant and the nature of the criminal proceedings and able to participate in one's defense compare capacity, incompetent, insanity
3
: legally qualified or adequate: as
a
: having the necessary power or authority
a judge of competent jurisdiction U.S. Code
b
: qualified for presentation in court : admissible as evidence or capable of giving admissible evidence
a competent witness
c
: intelligent
a competent waiver

More from Merriam-Webster on competent

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ