• synonyms


or in·com·pe·ten·cy

[in-kom-pi-tuh ns or in-kom-pi-tuh n-see]
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  1. the quality or condition of being incompetent; lack of ability.
  2. Law. the condition of lacking power to act with legal effectiveness.
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Origin of incompetence

1655–65; variant (with -ence for -ency) of earlier incompetency. See incompetent, -cy
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for incompetence

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Was discharged for incompetence, and took up honest writing.

  • He dismissed her only this morning, on a trumped-up charge of incompetence.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • Yet in too many of the cases the sentence of incompetence or cowardice was just.

  • You must become an advertiser or you must pay the penalty of incompetence.

  • One was the incompetence of the Irish people for local government.

    Home Rule

    Harold Spender

Word Origin and History for incompetence


1660s, "inadequacy;" 1716, "want of skill," from French incompétence (mid-16c.), from in- "not, opposite of, without" (see in- (1)) + compétence (see competence). Native formation incompetency (from incompetent + -cy) is attested from 1610s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

incompetence in Medicine


  1. The quality of being incompetent or incapable of performing a function, as the failure of the cardiac valves to close properly.
  2. The condition of being not legally qualified, as to stand trial.
  3. The inability to distinguish right from wrong or to manage one's affairs.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.