in·​com·​pe·​tent | \ (ˌ)in-ˈkäm-pə-tənt How to pronounce incompetent (audio) \

Definition of incompetent

1a : lacking the qualities needed for effective action
b : unable to function properly incompetent heart valves
2 : not legally qualified
3 : inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose

Other Words from incompetent

incompetent noun
incompetently adverb

Examples of incompetent in a Sentence

He is too incompetent to be trusted with such an important responsibility. The patient is mentally incompetent. The defendant was declared incompetent to stand trial.
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Recent Examples on the Web This led to Bowles being branded as corrupt, incompetent and in bed with criminals. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, 27 Aug. 2021 Are the SEALs really this incompetent and morally compromised? Washington Post, 24 Aug. 2021 Black people were portrayed as cartoonish, into the ‘60s and ‘70s, as incompetent and inferior and foolish. John Archibald |, al, 14 Aug. 2021 Her first husband and early manager, Ted White (Malcolm Barrett), is portrayed as petty, incompetent and physically abusive. New York Times, 10 Aug. 2021 According to 2014 research published in the Harvard Business Review (paywall), many CEOs are afraid to be considered foolish, incompetent and vulnerable and are worried about underachieving, as well as being attacked on a political level. Olha Boiko, Forbes, 11 May 2021 In 2017, a judge found Thompson incompetent to stand trial during court proceedings for several cases, according to the district attorney's office. Emily Shapiro, ABC News, 6 May 2021 Taking advantage of corrupt and incompetent leadership in the winter of 1921, the military took control of the country in a coup that led to the installation of the Pahlavi dynasty. Amy Kellogg, Fox News, 6 Mar. 2021 And since the withdrawal, a majority of voters have routinely said that the Biden administration is incompetent. New York Times, 23 Oct. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incompetent.' 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 incompetent

1595, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for incompetent

Middle French incompétent, from in- + compétent competent

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Time Traveler for incompetent

Time Traveler

The first known use of incompetent was in 1595

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Statistics for incompetent

Last Updated

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Incompetent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for incompetent



English Language Learners Definition of incompetent

: lacking necessary ability or skills
: not able to take part in a trial


in·​com·​pe·​tent | \ in-ˈkäm-pə-tənt How to pronounce incompetent (audio) \

Kids Definition of incompetent

: not able to do a good job

Other Words from incompetent

incompetently adverb


in·​com·​pe·​tent | \ (ˈ)in-ˈkäm-pət-ənt How to pronounce incompetent (audio) \

Medical Definition of incompetent

1 : not legally qualified especially : incapable due to a mental or physical condition
2 : unable to function properly incompetent heart valves

Other Words from incompetent

incompetently adverb


in·​com·​pe·​tent | \ in-ˈkäm-pə-tənt How to pronounce incompetent (audio) \

Legal Definition of incompetent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not legally qualified: as
a : lacking legal capacity (as because of age or mental deficiency)
b : incapable due to mental or physical condition — compare competent
c : lacking authority, power, or qualifications required by law an incompetent court incompetent evidence
2 : unable or failing to perform adequately fired for being incompetent an incompetent attorney — compare ineffective assistance of counsel



Legal Definition of incompetent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is incompetent — compare interdict

More from Merriam-Webster on incompetent

Nglish: Translation of incompetent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of incompetent for Arabic Speakers


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