incumbent on


  1. holding an indicated position, role, office, etc., currently: the incumbent officers of the club.
  2. obligatory (often followed by on or upon): a duty incumbent upon me.
  3. Archaic. resting, lying, leaning, or pressing on something: incumbent upon the cool grass.


  1. the holder of an office: The incumbent was challenged by a fusion candidate.
  2. British. a person who holds an ecclesiastical benefice.


  1. formal (often postpositive and foll by on or upon and an infinitive) morally binding or necessary; obligatoryit is incumbent on me to attend
  2. (usually postpositive and foll by on) resting or lying (on)


  1. a person who holds an office, esp a clergyman holding a benefice

1560s, in relation to duties or obligations, from Latin incumbentem (nominative incumbens), present participle of incumbere (see incumbent (n.)). The literal, physical sense is rare in English and first attested 1620s.


early 15c., “person holding a church position,” from Medieval Latin incumbentem (nominative incumbens) “holder of a church position,” noun use of present participle of incumbere “to obtain or possess,” from Latin incumbere “recline on,” figuratively “apply oneself to,” from in- “on” (see in- (2)) + -cumbere “lie down,” related to cubare “to lie” (see cubicle). Extended to holders of any office from 1670s.

One who holds a public office. By virtue of their experience in office, their exposure to the public, and their ability to raise campaign funds, incumbents usually have a significant advantage over opponents if they choose to run for reelection.

Also, incumbent upon. Imposed as an obligation or duty on, obligatory for. For example, He felt it was incumbent on us all to help the homeless. [Mid-1500s]

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