in·​ca·​pa·​ble (ˌ)in-ˈkā-pə-bəl How to pronounce incapable (audio)
: lacking capacity, ability, or qualification for the purpose or end in view: such as
: not able or fit for the doing or performance : incompetent
: not being in a state or of a kind to admit : insusceptible
archaic : not able to take in, hold, or keep
archaic : not receptive
: lacking legal qualification or power (as by reason of mental incompetence) : disqualified
incapableness noun
incapably adverb

Example Sentences

hired a supremely incapable assistant who only made a mess of things
Recent Examples on the Web Tony figured that a clear coating solution may work and Aaron knew most pests were incapable of climbing smooth surfaces, so, the two got to work. The Arizona Republic, 24 Jan. 2023 Ukraine has shown the world that Russia’s military is incapable of even the most basic political and military strategy. Time, 19 Jan. 2023 Monotremes, which diverged from other mammals millions of years ago, are incapable of panting, sweating, or licking themselves to cool down. Byjack Tamisiea,, 17 Jan. 2023 Houses Republicans so far are incapable of organizing themselves, as the multiple ballots for a new speaker have revealed. Dan Balz, Anchorage Daily News, 5 Jan. 2023 The chaos on the House floor only feeds into Democrats’ narrative that House Republicans are incapable of governing. Los Angeles Times, 3 Jan. 2023 The machine can retrieve information from broken cylinder shards that are incapable of being traditionally played, which can then be digitally reconstituted into a complete recording. Jeremy Gordon, New York Times, 2 Jan. 2023 This team, one that was constructed to win a title now, is clearly incapable of doing so. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 24 Dec. 2022 While the Chiefs struggled to extend their lead in the second half, the Seahawks were incapable of trimming it. Dave Skretta, ajc, 24 Dec. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle French, from in- + capable capable

First Known Use

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of incapable was in 1594

Dictionary Entries Near incapable

Cite this Entry

“Incapable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ca·​pa·​ble (ˈ)in-ˈkā-pə-bəl How to pronounce incapable (audio)
: not able to do something
incapable of cleaning her room thoroughly

Legal Definition


: lacking legal qualification or power (as by reason of mental incompetence) see also incapacity

More from Merriam-Webster on incapable

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