[in-kuhm-buh nt]


holding an indicated position, role, office, etc., currently: the incumbent officers of the club.
obligatory (often followed by on or upon): a duty incumbent upon me.
Archaic. resting, lying, leaning, or pressing on something: incumbent upon the cool grass.


the holder of an office: The incumbent was challenged by a fusion candidate.
British. a person who holds an ecclesiastical benefice.

Origin of incumbent

1375–1425; late Middle English (noun) < Latin incumbent- (stem of incumbēns present participle of incumbere to lie or lean upon, equivalent to in- in-2 + cumb- (nasalized variant of cub- sit, lie; see incubus) + -ent- -ent
Related formsin·cum·bent·ly, adverban·ti-in·cum·bent, adjective, nounnon·in·cum·bent, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for anti-incumbent

Contemporary Examples of anti-incumbent

  • The anti-incumbent narrative likewise failed last night, as Kentucky Democrat Beshear was easily reelected.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Election Day Backlash

    John Avlon

    November 9, 2011

  • And independents, the most anti-incumbent, are leaning heavily Republican, 53 percent to 33 percent.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Don't Blow It, GOP!

    Mark McKinnon

    October 5, 2010

  • It would be quite the irony if the anti-incumbent tide catches the governor in its undertow.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Statehouse Smackdowns

    Samuel P. Jacobs

    September 4, 2010

  • The anti-incumbent wave in American politics has made looking for votes this fall like looking for water in the Arizona desert.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Meet Obama's Karl Rove

    Dayo Olopade

    May 12, 2010

  • But Perry rushed to her right flank, trying to tie her to Washington in an anti-incumbent year.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Texas Goes Wingnut

    John Avlon

    March 1, 2010

British Dictionary definitions for anti-incumbent



formal (often postpositive and foll by on or upon and an infinitive) morally binding or necessary; obligatoryit is incumbent on me to attend
(usually postpositive and foll by on) resting or lying (on)


a person who holds an office, esp a clergyman holding a benefice
Derived Formsincumbently, adverb

Word Origin for incumbent

C16: from Latin incumbere to lie upon, devote one's attention to, from in- ² + -cumbere, related to Latin cubāre to lie down
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for anti-incumbent



1560s, in relation to duties or obligations, from Latin incumbentem (nominative incumbens), present participle of incumbere (see incumbent (n.)). The literal, physical sense is rare in English and first attested 1620s.



early 15c., "person holding a church position," from Medieval Latin incumbentem (nominative incumbens) "holder of a church position," noun use of present participle of incumbere "to obtain or possess," from Latin incumbere "recline on," figuratively "apply oneself to," from in- "on" (see in- (2)) + -cumbere "lie down," related to cubare "to lie" (see cubicle). Extended to holders of any office from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

anti-incumbent in Culture



One who holds a public office. By virtue of their experience in office, their exposure to the public, and their ability to raise campaign funds, incumbents usually have a significant advantage over opponents if they choose to run for reelection.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.