Definition of incumbent in English:



  • 1incumbent on/uponNecessary for (someone) as a duty or responsibility.

    ‘the government realized that it was incumbent on them to act’
    • ‘The former is a duty incumbent upon all Muslims, the latter a duty incumbent upon the ‘Islamic state’.’
    • ‘It is still incumbent upon all of us to take it further.’
    • ‘There was no doubt that it was incumbent upon the Respondent in making the ex parte application to make full and frank disclosure.’
    • ‘If the actual timing of the closing was a critical term of any agreement, then it was incumbent on the Respondent to stipulate that in his offer.’
    • ‘A further example of this difficulty concerns the special responsibility incumbent on firms in a dominant position.’
    • ‘It is incumbent on the Government to accept that responsibility and explain to the people of the region what will happen.’
    • ‘Teachers and lecturers feel it incumbent upon themselves, when teaching his great works, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, to explain the context.’
    • ‘In most Western countries, the law values the presumption of innocence, where it is incumbent upon the person alleging an offence to prove that the offence has taken place.’
    • ‘Therefore, it was incumbent upon the coalition partners to frankly, honestly and realistically examine, debate and sort out the issue.’
    • ‘It was incumbent on him to prove that his duty was discharged before he could invoke the clause.’
    • ‘An occasion is privileged if the statement is made pursuant to a legal, social or moral duty incumbent upon the defendant.’
    • ‘To put it more practically, if an election really has to be the choice of the lesser of two evils, isn't it incumbent upon you to make sure who the lesser of two evils is?’
    • ‘Indeed, the prayer is a duty incumbent on the faithful to be discharged at appointed hours.’
    • ‘But, given their failure, it was incumbent upon them to respond to the argument in some manner.’
    • ‘However, it also sets out a number of duties incumbent upon the American citizen.’
    • ‘It's incumbent upon everybody to take responsibility about what is happening in our country.’
    • ‘The acquisition of knowledge is a duty incumbent on every Muslim, male and female.’
    • ‘In the absence of justice, peace cannot survive, which makes it incumbent upon Muslims to remove injustice, even if it involves resistance.’
    • ‘I am not being judgmental or unwelcoming, but I feel that it is incumbent upon me to inform you that I am unaware of the existence of any private pictures about those gentlemen.’
    • ‘It is very much incumbent on those who are responsible for the detention to bring forward relevant information.’
    binding, obligatory, mandatory, necessary, compulsory, required, requisite, essential, imperative
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  • 2attributive (of an official or regime) currently holding office.

    ‘the incumbent President was defeated’
    • ‘It is difficult to defeat an incumbent governor.’
    • ‘They are also calling on the city executive to stop transferring workers who are aligned with political opponents of incumbent officials.’
    • ‘A change in anyone's government gets far more attention than an election that returns the incumbent government to office.’
    • ‘Yet, the incumbent government has been generous to the group by taking lenient measures against its members who are on police's wanted list for their unlawful activities over the past years.’
    • ‘‘If we were heads of these localities, we might act in the same way as these incumbent officials did,’ Lee admitted.’
    • ‘The main party associated with the incumbent regime won only about 15 percent in 1993 and 10 percent in 1995.’
    • ‘Yet, the reform drive should not concentrate only on ousting old faces allegedly responsible for the corruption and misadministraion of the incumbent government.’
    • ‘Without question, survival is a basic goal of incumbent regimes of all nation-states; North Korea is no exception.’
    • ‘It is a small union and it does not take many votes to defeat an incumbent official.’
    • ‘Needless to say, it implies that the business environment of Korea has deteriorated throughout the final year of the incumbent government.’
    • ‘Each year the incumbent officials perform ceremonies to remember the event.’
    • ‘And the incumbent governor of Mississippi is a Democrat.’
    • ‘In a democracy, on the eve of a quadrennial election, the incumbent government plainly has a motive to encourage the media to report positively on its record but also negatively on the rival.’
    • ‘They were media events, too, staged as much for the international press corps as to put pressure on the incumbent regimes.’
    • ‘And while the official results are still coming in it appears incumbent governments across Europe have suffered at the hands of voters.’
    • ‘The incumbent officials no doubt feel the need to do something to boost their standing in the eyes of union members increasingly disillusioned with the erosion of conditions.’
    • ‘The GNP is standing at the crossroads, facing a road to a permanent opposition party or being reborn as the main pillar to support national politics as the alternative force of the incumbent regime.’
    • ‘Instead of highlighting the brutality sustaining the incumbent regimes in power, these analysts blame the victims.’
    • ‘Unless an incumbent government takes an active interest in improving the supply of public services, benign neglect will inevitably lead to a gradual deterioration.’
    • ‘These models essentially confirm that the level of economic pain we are now feeling is not commensurate with voting an incumbent president out of office.’
    current, existing, present, in office, in power
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  • 3attributive (of a company) having a sizeable share of a market.

    ‘powerful incumbent airlines’
    • ‘They also were incumbent companies that resisted change and eventually were consumed by it.’
    • ‘So long as free entry and exit exists in markets, incumbent businesses can earn only competitive rates of profit.’
    • ‘We hear a lot about barriers to entry and how those insuperable walls can be a natural protection for incumbent companies.’
    • ‘Win or lose, the publicity should help increase Vonage's name recognition in its David against Goliath battle against the incumbent telcos.’
    • ‘Why are incumbent telecommunications firms and cable operators so afraid of municipal networks?’


  • 1The holder of an office or post.

    ‘the present incumbent will soon be retiring’
    • ‘Thus, in mulling over a formula for my ideal PM, I found it helpful to consider separately the office, the incumbent, the candidate.’
    • ‘It is also in part the result of the greater importance of the Council Presidency and the fact that the incumbent of this Office will often have an agenda which he or she wishes to see achieved.’
    • ‘But we cannot just resort to blaming the present incumbents for our circumstances.’
    • ‘It is blatantly obvious that the current incumbents at the Home Office cannot even spell the words civil and liberty, let alone grasp their meaning.’
    • ‘Eleven years after he took up the Festival's reins, with two more to run on his current contract, he is now the longest-serving incumbent of a post he has described as ‘the best job in the world’.’
    • ‘Today, at 69, he is one of the oldest incumbents of that office.’
    • ‘Then as now, a majority of the electorate disapproved of the incumbent's performance.’
    • ‘In terms of incumbents losing office in Australia, this is the lowest vote that we've ever heard of in any public election for anything.’
    • ‘Voters may look back on an incumbent's performance in office, and cast a retrospective vote, or may compare what the candidates promise to do if elected to office, and vote prospectively.’
    • ‘A quarter of a century later, he is one of the oldest incumbents of the same office.’
    • ‘One is, we're asking incumbents to vote to change a system that keeps incumbents in office.’
    • ‘Elections in which an incumbent president is running typically are referenda on the job performance of the incumbent.’
    • ‘The incumbents of the office were to be changed, by election, each year.’
    • ‘The very idea of the present incumbent supporting a factory occupation is laughable.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, the legislative districts are designed to protect the incumbent.’
    • ‘Later Prime Ministers were unwilling to challenge those interests; the present incumbent may be unable to do so.’
    • ‘Notwithstanding widespread fears that the President to-be would be a clone of the present incumbent, the reality may be different.’
    • ‘The present incumbent is I think magnificent at not being rattled by anything.’
    • ‘He is a decent, honest man, though given to prolixity; no genius, but then certainly no worse than the present incumbent.’
    • ‘One thing that stands out is the lousy re-election rates of senators who came to office by defeating incumbents to get their seats.’
    holder, bearer, occupant
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    1. 1.1Christian Church The holder of an ecclesiastical benefice.
      • ‘The trainee pastor, on loan to the church because the resident incumbent has gone off his rocker, is so damp behind the ears he doesn't notice when ladies make passes.’
      • ‘A provost is the head of the cathedral chapter in a number of the Church of England's more recently created dioceses in which the cathedral is also a parish church and the provost is the incumbent.’
      • ‘For 12 months cameras will follow the fortunes of the St Mary Magdalene's, which at present is being looked after by a vicar from a neighbouring parish, as the new incumbent tries to make a difference.’
      • ‘He visited the eclectic congregation systematically and, with the support of the incumbent, initiated weekly Bible studies, men's meetings and other teaching activities.’
      • ‘The monk or nun incumbents will probably engage in daily devotions and practices, as well as giving teachings, blessings and ceremonies for the laity.’


Late Middle English (as a noun): from Anglo-Latin incumbens, incumbent-, from Latin incumbere ‘lie or lean on’, from in- ‘upon’ + a verb related to cubare ‘lie’.