Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for July 7, 2021 is:

incumbent • in-KUM-bunt  • noun

1 : the holder of an office or ecclesiastical benefice

2 : one that occupies a particular position or place


“She also acknowledged a likelihood of having two relatively underfunded challengers take on the incumbent in a compressed election season with limited venues for campaigning.” — Jeffrey S. Solochek, The Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, 12 June 2020

“The incumbents for the Fayetteville and Rogers school boards all secured their seats for another term, while another incumbent in Fort Smith was defeated, according to final, unofficial results from Tuesday’s school election.” — Mary Jordan and Thomas Saccente, The (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 19 May 2021

Did you know?

When incumbent was first used in English in the 15th century, it referred to someone who occupied a benefice—a paid position in a church. This was often a lifetime appointment; the person could only be forced to leave the office in the case of certain specific legal conflicts. In the mid-17th century, incumbent came to refer to anyone holding any office, including elected positions. In the modern American political system, incumbent typically refers to someone who is the current holder of a position during an election for that position. The word also functions as an adjective with its most common meanings being “occupying a specified office” (“the incumbent mayor”) and “obligatory” (“it is incumbent upon us to help”). Incumbent came to English through Anglo-French and derives from the Latin incumbere, meaning “to lie down on.”