a. The ability to do something well or efficiently.
b. A range of skill or ability: a task beyond his competence.
c. A specific ability or skill: a surprising competence in dealing with animals.
2. Law The quality or condition of being legally qualified or fit to perform an act.
3. Microbiology The ability of bacteria to be genetically transformable.
4. Medicine The ability to respond immunologically to bacteria, viruses, or other antigenic agents.
5. Linguistics The knowledge that enables one to speak and understand a language.
6. Sufficient means for a comfortable existence.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.