Incompetence refers to a lack of ability, skill, or knowledge required to perform a particular task or fulfill a specific role effectively or successfully. It implies a failure to meet the expected or desired standards or requirements in a given area or domain.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



ineptness, incapacity, inefficiency, inadequacy, incompetence, incapability, lack of ability, inability, clumsiness, lack of skill.


Competence, proficiency, aptitude, capability, skill, ability, expertise, talent, adeptness, mastery.

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun incompetents, incompetence, incompetencies, incompetences, incompetency, incompetent
Verb None
Adjective incompetent
Adverb incompetently

Example Sentences

  • The company’s financial troubles were primarily due to the widespread incompetence of its management team.

  • The professor was frustrated by the students’ constant incompetence, as they consistently failed to understand basic concepts.

  • The doctor’s incompetence in diagnosing the patient’s condition led to a delay in receiving proper treatment.

  • The political leader’s incompetence in handling the crisis resulted in widespread public outrage and loss of confidence.


The word “incompetence” derives from the Latin roots “in-” meaning “not” or “without,” and “competentia” meaning “competence” or “capability.” The suffix “-ence” is added to form a noun indicating a state or quality.

The term “incompetence” has been in use for centuries to describe a lack of ability, skill, or knowledge in various fields or domains. It is commonly used to refer to individuals who are unable to perform their duties or responsibilities effectively or successfully. This could apply to professionals in any field, ranging from medicine and law to education and business.

Incompetence can manifest in various ways, such as poor decision-making, inability to properly execute tasks, or a lack of necessary knowledge or skills. It is often criticized or deemed unacceptable because it leads to subpar outcomes and can have negative consequences. For example, an incompetent doctor may misdiagnose patients, putting their health at risk, while an incompetent employee may negatively impact the productivity and success of an organization.

Due to its negative connotation, “incompetence” is primarily used to highlight shortcomings or failures. It can be used to describe the performance of individuals, groups, or entire systems that do not meet the expected or desired standards. The word emphasizes a lack of ability or adequacy, implying a need for improvement, training, or change.

In summary, the word “incompetence” has a rich history and is widely used to describe a lack of ability or skill in various areas. Its Latin roots, prefix, suffix, and root meanings all contribute to its current usage. By denoting a state or quality of being incapable or unskilled, it helps identify areas that need improvement and prompts a search for more competent alternatives or solutions.