Definition of incapable in US English:



  • 1incapable ofUnable to do or achieve (something)

    ‘Wilson blushed and was incapable of speech’
    • ‘The person exempted from serious evaluation, after all, is someone considered incapable of significant achievement.’
    • ‘Consequently he was incompetent, cognitively incapable of envisioning change and probably dangerous.’
    • ‘He had been deformed by accident at birth, and was a hunched dwarf, unable to walk well, and so shy that the King's men thought him incapable of proper speech.’
    • ‘He thought me a child, a helpless, useless creature, incapable of cunning and deception of any breed.’
    • ‘He still felt incapable of movement or speech, powerless, though he did not feel in any pain.’
    • ‘Anyhow, after being just as rude to him, as he to me, he seems to be completely incapable of speech.’
    • ‘Now 78, Eduardo is wheelchair bound, alert but incapable of speech.’
    • ‘I can type the word ‘no’ easily enough - look, no, no, no, no, no - so why do I seem to be entirely incapable of actually saying it?’
    • ‘Slowly, she shook her head, finding herself quite incapable of speech at the moment.’
    • ‘It is not much more than a year ago that he dismissed the UN as an inefficient, bureaucratic organisation incapable of decision or action.’
    • ‘But we remain stuck in hopeless denial, regrettably incapable of accepting what will be harsh medicine.’
    • ‘Take the example of an elderly person who suffers a stroke which renders him incapable of speech or movement.’
    • ‘However, when those in charge at the club seem to be unwilling, unable and/or incapable of changing things then protest of some form is definitely needed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘After several seconds of being incapable of speech, Audrey finally got a grip on herself… sort of.’
    • ‘She has never told her mother, who appears hopelessly incapable of communicating constructively with her daughter about the issues which affect her most.’
    • ‘One of my companions was actually incapable of speech for the next five minutes.’
    • ‘She is rich, useless, and incapable of contributing to society.’
    • ‘A few reactors in her brain decided to give up the ghost, and she simply stared, incapable of speech or action.’
    • ‘I was absolutely demolished, emotionally wrung dry, incapable of coherent speech for a half-hour or so afterwards.’
    unable to, not capable of, lacking the ability to, not equipped to, lacking the experience to
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    1. 1.1 Not allowing the possibility of (a particular action)
      ‘with the battery removed the car was incapable of being driven’
      • ‘Most hydraulic systems are also very inefficient, and incapable of recovering regenerative power.’
      • ‘And Burge's proposal seems incapable of explaining how they are possible.’
      • ‘A possible explanation is that the human eye and brain are incapable of processing all the necessary visual information to apply the rule’
      • ‘There is an argument which holds that half a century after its birth, rock 'n' roll is now a geriatric form which, like jazz, has become incapable of innovation or reinvention.’
      • ‘Processes for evaluating the welfare of the child, even if they are comparatively vigorous, are incapable of identifying inadequate parents.’
      • ‘It only looks broken because we are now asking it to perform a function of which it is incapable.’
      • ‘Attempts by the United Nations to broker a deal have foundered, allowing the problem to fester and become a sore incapable of being healed.’
      • ‘Britain's health, education and welfare systems, devised in the 1940s, are incapable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century.’
      • ‘Simply put, in every way possible, the United States was incapable of sending a modern army to fight in Europe.’
      not open to, not admitting of, not susceptible to, resistant to, impervious to
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    2. 1.2 (of a person) too caring or moral to do (something)
      ‘a man incapable of any kind of prejudice’
      • ‘Holst said of him that he ‘never joined in the ordinary hatred of Germany; he was utterly incapable of hatred under any provocation whatsoever’.’
      • ‘What he did say was that he wanted to be able to have the right to take his own life. He was incapable of doing anything for himself, he felt that he was a burden on his family, he was unhappy and he felt that now was the time to go.’
      • ‘But once opportunity offered she was incapable of refusing…’
      • ‘So, Tony, if you are incapable of political acts of kindness please step aside.’
  • 2Unable to behave rationally or manage one's affairs; incompetent.

    ‘the pilot may become incapable from the lack of oxygen’
    • ‘Being drunk and incapable should no longer be an excuse for misbehaving on the streets, says the man taking over Swindon's new licensing body.’
    • ‘Churches and pro-life organisations fear that the bill could result in incapable adults being denied food and drink at the insistence of a relative empowered to act for them.’
    • ‘What I wouldn't do was to serve it up to 18 people on a course who were hungry because my own incapable staff couldn't do their job properly and supply any biscuits at break times.’
    • ‘Furthermore, those charged with supervising the company on our behalf and protecting our savings were either incapable or unable to force the insurer to live in the real world.’
    • ‘I know I'd just finished at the gym, but I don't think I looked that incapable.’
    • ‘Paramedics are dealing with a growing number of drunk and incapable youngsters on the streets, according to a senior member of North Yorkshire ambulance service.’
    • ‘The officer will then send the report to the procurator fiscal who will decide whether to have the person charged with being drunk and incapable.’
    • ‘He was arrested for being drunk and incapable and was taken to Toller Lane police station in Bradford, where he was locked up and placed under half-hourly observation.’
    • ‘Drunk and disorderly incidents more than doubled from 12 to 26, and drunk and incapable offenders increased eight-fold.’
    • ‘When the attorney has reason to believe that the donor is, or is becoming, mentally incapable he must make an application to the Court of Protection for registration of the EPA.’
    • ‘A 14-year-old girl was arrested for being drunk and incapable but later released.’
    • ‘Being arrested drunk and incapable at 11 pm in the centre of London is part of every young man's right of passage.’
    • ‘Goss also admitted he had no knowledge of Arabic and that his kids chastised him for being incapable with computers.’
    • ‘Lawyers prepare the necessary Enduring Powers of Attorney documents which allow you to appoint someone you trust to manage your affairs if you become incapable.’
    • ‘We are sure they do not want to be seen as some infirm, incapable, old couple.’
    • ‘He wishes he could organise his time better but feels incapable.’
    • ‘What would you do if you ever became paralysed or incapable?’
    • ‘Beth's weary loyalty towards her incapable boyfriend is fun to watch.’
    • ‘Police say action is needed to deal with the growing number of people they are finding drunk and incapable on the city's streets.’
    • ‘I am not saying for a moment that every woman who is left to bring up a child on her own is incapable.’
    incapacitated, helpless, powerless, impotent
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Late 16th century: from French, or from late Latin incapabilis, from in- ‘not’ + capabilis (see capable).