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[in-kom-pi-tuh nt] /ɪnˈkɒm pɪ tənt/
not competent; lacking qualification or ability; incapable:
an incompetent candidate.
characterized by or showing incompetence:
His incompetent acting ruined the play.
  1. being unable or legally unqualified to perform specified acts or to be held legally responsible for such acts.
  2. inadmissible, as evidence.
an incompetent person; a mentally deficient person.
Law. a person lacking power to act with legal effectiveness.
Origin of incompetent
1590-1600; < Late Latin incompetent- (stem of incompetēns) unsuitable. See in-3, competent
Related forms
incompetently, adverb
1. unqualified, inadequate, unfit. See incapable.
1. able, qualified. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for incompetent
  • In such business, if an agent is unskillful or from any cause incompetent, he is immediately discharged.
  • It has been pronounced not delightful by persons not incompetent: it can never, by any such, be pronounced not great.
  • He whose thoughts run in sober channels is incompetent to declare whether or not the jest is a good one.
  • The soldiers, illiterate but sturdy peasants, were often misused by incompetent officers.
  • The hatchery was an incompetent operation that ceased functioning after a few years.
  • People were shocked that he allowed some of his incompetent workers to stay on after a mistake.
  • Is our largest automaker really that incompetent that they can't create a good hybrid that is inexpensive without huge subsidies.
  • Booth often features cartoons about incompetent car mechanics and dog-infested car garages.
  • Some are deemed geniuses, others inspiring leaders, while others are labelled incompetent buffoons.
  • If he had first gotten rid of a few who were loyal but incompetent, the episode might have turned out quite differently.
British Dictionary definitions for incompetent


not possessing the necessary ability, skill, etc to do or carry out a task; incapable
marked by lack of ability, skill, etc
(law) not legally qualified: an incompetent witness
(of rock strata, folds, etc) yielding readily to pressure so as to undergo structural deformation
an incompetent person
Derived Forms
incompetence, incompetency, noun
incompetently, adverb
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
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Word Origin and History for incompetent

1610s, "insufficient," from French incompétent, from Late Latin incompetentem (nominative incompetens) "insufficient," from in- "not" (see in- (1)) + Latin competentem (see competent). Sense of "lacking qualification or ability" first recorded 1630s. The noun meaning "incompetent person" is from 1866. Related: Incompetently.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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incompetent in Medicine

incompetent in·com·pe·tent (ĭn-kŏm'pĭ-tənt)

  1. Inadequate for or unsuited to a particular purpose or application.

  2. Incapable of proper functioning.

  3. Not qualified in legal terms.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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