having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified: He is perfectly competent to manage the bank branch.
adequate but not exceptional.
Law. (of a witness, a party to a contract, etc.) having legal competence, as by meeting certain minimum requirements of age, soundness of mind, or the like.
Geology. (of a bed or stratum) able to undergo folding without flowage or change in thickness.

Origin of competent

1350–1400; Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin competent- (stem of competēns, present participle of competere to meet, agree). See compete, -ent
Related formscom·pe·tent·ly, adverbnon·com·pe·tent, adjectivenon·com·pe·tent·ly, adverbul·tra·com·pe·tent, adjectiveun·com·pe·tent, adjectiveun·com·pe·tent·ly, adverb

Synonyms for competent

Synonym study

1. See able. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for competent

Contemporary Examples of competent

Historical Examples of competent

  • He reached out a square, competent hand, and put it over hers.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • It is so difficult to keep ‘heights that the soul is competent to gain.’

    De Profundis

    Oscar Wilde

  • Who is going to say whether an applicant is competent to pilot a balloon or airship?

    Flying Machines

    W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell

  • The expectation of acquiring a competent fortune did not last long.

  • It had died down and left him competent as ever to handle the scene.

British Dictionary definitions for competent



having sufficient skill, knowledge, etc; capable
suitable or sufficient for the purposea competent answer
law (of a witness) having legal capacity; qualified to testify, etc
(postpositive foll by to) belonging as a right; appropriate
Derived Formscompetently, adverbcompetentness, noun

Word Origin for competent

C14: from Latin competēns, from competere to be competent; see compete
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 competent

late 14c., "suitable," from Old French competent "sufficient, appropriate, suitable," from Latin competentem (nominative competens), present participle of competere "coincide, agree" (see compete). Meaning "able, fit" is from 1640s. Legal sense is late 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for competent




Properly or sufficiently qualified; capable.
Capable of performing an allotted or required function.
Legally qualified or fit to perform an act.
Able to distinguish right from wrong and to manage one's affairs.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.