late 14c., "suitable, answering all requirements, sufficient, adequate," from Old French competent "sufficient, appropriate, suitable," and directly from Latin competentem (nominative competens), present participle of competere "coincide, agree" (see compete). It preserves the classical Latin sense of the verb, whereas the meaning in compete is a post-classical evolution. Meaning "able, fit, having ability or capacity" is from 1640s. Legal sense "having legal capacity or qualification" is late 15c. Related: Competently.