Definition of competent in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈkämpədənt/


1Having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully: a highly competent surgeon make sure the firm is competent to carry out the work
More example sentences
  • But it may be some time before they do their part to teach young people all the skills necessary to become competent, successful adults.
  • As a result, colleges of agriculture must ensure that graduates are competent in computer skills necessary for success with regard to these trends.
  • Please approach a general surgeon who is competent to do both forms of surgery.
1.1(Of a person) efficient and capable: an infinitely competent mother of three
More example sentences
  • Use words that show her that she is competent, capable, and talented.
  • For example, there's an ingrained distrust in our society of highly intelligent, highly trained, highly competent persons.
  • Tang and Siew are both talented and competent persons.
capable, able, proficient, adept, adroit, accomplished, complete, skillful, skilled, credentialed, gifted, talented, expert;
good, excellent
informal great, mean, wicked, nifty, ace
1.2Acceptable and satisfactory, though not outstanding: she spoke quite competent French
More example sentences
  • K - 19: The Widowmaker is a competent, satisfactory submarine movie.
  • We'd been warned about possible poor service, but actually it was competent, if not outstanding.
  • But most were at least competent, some outstanding.
adequate, acceptable, satisfactory, reasonable, fair, decent, not bad, all right, average, tolerable, passable, moderate, middling
informal OK, okay, so-so, ‘comme ci, comme ça’
1.3(Chiefly of a court or other body) accepted as having legal authority to deal with a particular matter: the governor was not the competent authority to deal with the matter
More example sentences
  • In other words, this is a finding of fact for the competent authority dealing with the case in the first instance and which, for reasons we give hereunder, we should not interfere with.
  • I went to court because the court is the only competent authority to judge whether the allegation holds or not.
  • It is a question of fact and degree in respect of which the court will only interfere with the decision of the competent authority if its conclusion is plainly wrong.
fit, suitable, suited, appropriate;
qualified, empowered, authorized
1.4(Of a criminal defendant) able to understand the charges and to aid in defending themselves.
1.5 Biology & Medicine Capable of performing the normal function effectively.
Example sentences
  • ‘This work challenges the view that neonates are not immune competent at birth,’ said Dr Griebel.
  • The corrected reticulocyte index should be elevated in patients with an acute anemia but a competent bone marrow.
  • Thirdly, simvastatin inhibits endothelial cell apoptosis and preserves ischaemic vasculature, perhaps maintaining a competent vascular supply to the macula.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'suitable, adequate'): from Latin competent-, from the verb competere in its earlier sense 'be fit or proper' (see compete).

Words that rhyme with competent


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: com·pe·tent

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.