Definition of incompetent in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /inˈkämpədənt/


1Not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully: a forgetful and utterly incompetent assistant
More example sentences
  • This crew appears to be so power-hungry, and so incompetent in carrying out their radical programs, that only disaster will result if they gain a second term.
  • Not necessarily incompetent, they are opportunists who seize the chance to make lots of money for doing relatively little work.
  • The point is not to say that planners are necessary corrupt or incompetent; but simply that they cannot fail to see things from the point of view of how they, personally, may be affected by their own decisions.
inept, unskillful, unskilled, inexpert, amateurish, unprofessional, bungling, blundering, clumsy, inadequate, substandard, inferior, ineffective, deficient, inefficient, ineffectual, wanting, lacking, leaving much to be desired;
incapable, unfit, unqualified
informal useless, pathetic, ham-fisted, not up to it, not up to scratch, bush-league
1.1 Law Not qualified to act in a particular capacity: the patient is deemed legally incompetent
More example sentences
  • I am horrified that thousands of pounds of taxpayer's money is being spent employing solicitors and barristers who are incompetent.
  • If that proves to be the case, input from psychologists will become even more important in determining how the law treats defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial.
  • The head of state must be a Muslim, and non-Muslims are incompetent to testify against Muslims.
1.2 Medicine (Especially of a valve or sphincter) not able to perform its function.
Example sentences
  • When a valve is incompetent, the heart has to work harder to pump the required amount of blood around the body.
  • Occurs when incompetent valves cause blood to pool in the legs.
  • Barium contrast studies and colonoscopy may show ulcers, strictures, a deformed cecum, incompetent ileocecal valve, or fistulas.


An incompetent person.
Example sentences
  • After reading an article in a daily newspaper this week I am left to conclude that our elected leaders are a bunch of fools, incompetents and idiots (take your pick as to who falls into which category).
  • At best they have been portrayed as bungling incompetents.
  • But exemplary and dedicated teachers surrounded by incompetents will soon grow demoralized, and effective teachers will shun under-performing schools.



Pronunciation: /inˈkämpəd(ə)ntlē/
Example sentences
  • A movie may be incompetently acted and amateurishly shot.
  • People said it was a waste of money, that it was too extravagant for its own good, and that the construction project was incompetently managed.
  • The money would be better spent on treating women rather than regulating a single aspect of medicine so incompetently.


Late 16th century (in the sense 'not legally competent'): from French, or from late Latin incompetent-, from in- 'not' + Latin competent- 'being fit or proper' (see competent).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·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.

Related Words