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[in-kuhm-buh nt] /ɪnˈkʌm bənt/
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
late Middle English
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 forms
incumbently, adverb
anti-incumbent, adjective, noun
nonincumbent, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for incumbent
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And there's nothing more you feel it incumbent upon you to do for me?

    Red Pepper Burns Grace S. Richmond
  • And now he was once more seated close to her, and it was incumbent on him to speak to her.

    Is He Popenjoy? Anthony Trollope
  • Much as he disliked the necessity, it was incumbent on him to perform an autopsy.

    The Woman from Outside Hulbert Footner
  • He had lived as an aristocrat—it was incumbent on him, he said, not to shirk death as one.

    The False Chevalier William Douw Lighthall
  • Of this office he was the first incumbent, no Court of Queen's Bench having previously existed there.

British Dictionary definitions for incumbent


(formal) often postpositive and foll by on or upon and an infinitive. morally binding or necessary; obligatory: it 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 Forms
incumbently, adverb
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for incumbent

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.


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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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incumbent in Culture
incumbent [(in-kum-buhnt)]

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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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