Definition of incompetent in English:



  • 1[mass noun] Not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully.

    ‘a forgetful and utterly incompetent assistant’
    • ‘Consequently he was incompetent, cognitively incapable of envisioning change and probably dangerous.’
    • ‘But to go back to work; suddenly, I AM that useless incompetent know-nothing manager whose presence in a position of authority bewilders everyone.’
    • ‘I am simply too incompetent, too inexperienced and too unfit to be let anywhere near anything you can fall off.’
    • ‘Bullies latch on to any kind of weakness - but that doesn't mean the person being bullied is incompetent or incapable.’
    • ‘On the grounds of weeding out incompetent and unqualified staff, every teacher in the city was dismissed by the municipal authorities and ordered to reapply for their positions.’
    • ‘But yesterday Mr Roberts admitted unprofessional and incompetent conduct.’
    • ‘After that date firms would have to prove beyond doubt that older workers were incompetent or incapable of doing their jobs if they wanted to pension them off.’
    • ‘With close on 360000 inexperienced and incompetent drivers in circulation, is it any wonder that the accident rate is so alarming?’
    • ‘Quarrels over succession, corrupt and incompetent administration, and revolts accelerated disintegration.’
    • ‘With the ball in hand they were ambitious and expansive. And clumsy, incompetent and inadequate.’
    • ‘These apologies can be interpreted as excuses for people being incompetent, unqualified, dumb, disorganised, and unreliable.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In a large number of life's most basic practical skills, I am quite staggeringly, hopelessly incompetent.’
    • ‘They were severely lambasted for being so inept and so incompetent.’
    • ‘The system was supposed to have been finished a week ago… yet, as always, her incompetent assistants had let her down.’
    • ‘She would even settle for her incompetent assistants at this point.’
    • ‘I may have said there are people here who are incompetent and unprofessional.’
    • ‘The problem is that we have had a succession of absolutely incompetent Ministers of Correction.’
    • ‘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, unskilful, unskilled, inexpert, amateurish, unprofessional, lacking ability, bungling, blundering, clumsy, unproficient, inadequate, substandard, inferior, ineffective, deficient, inefficient, ineffectual, no good, not good enough, wanting, lacking, leaving much to be desired
    incapable, unfitted, unfit, unsuitable, unqualified
    useless, pathetic, cack-handed, ham-fisted, not up to it, a dead loss, not up to scratch, not up to snuff
    unable to do something for toffee, unable to do something to save one's life, not much cop
    half-arsed, not know one's arse from one's elbow, couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery
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    1. 1.1Law Not qualified to act in a particular capacity.
      ‘the patient is deemed legally 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.’
      • ‘There was the first, the default that you are complaining of; then there was the section of the Evidence Act; and then there was incompetent advocacy.’
      • ‘I am horrified that thousands of pounds of taxpayer's money is being spent employing solicitors and barristers who are incompetent.’
      • ‘The head of state must be a Muslim, and non-Muslims are incompetent to testify against Muslims.’
      • ‘In a letter the procurator fiscal raised no objection to this, but in court the Crown argued, and the sheriff accepted, that the motion was incompetent.’
    2. 1.2Medicine (especially of a valve or sphincter) not able to perform its function.
      • ‘Valves maybe incompetent due to lower leg trauma, deep vein thrombosis, or congenital anomalies.’
      • ‘In the 1940s, incompetent perforator veins were recognized as significant contributors to venous ulcers.’
      • ‘Barium contrast studies and colonoscopy may show ulcers, strictures, a deformed cecum, incompetent ileocecal valve, or fistulas.’
      • ‘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.’


  • An incompetent person.

    ‘the tanker captain was a known incompetent’
    • ‘But exemplary and dedicated teachers surrounded by incompetents will soon grow demoralized, and effective teachers will shun under-performing schools.’
    • ‘With his cultured right foot, he dominates the midfield, his integrity and swift moral purpose shading everyone else into the second-rate incompetents they probably know deep down that they are.’
    • ‘History is littered with despots and psychopaths, murderous dullards, evil geniuses, deadly incompetents, calamitous brutes of all descriptions.’
    • ‘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.’
    bungler, blunderer, incompetent, oaf, dunce, dolt, dunderhead, fool, idiot, booby, stupid person, moron, cretin, imbecile
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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).