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" (from PIE root *en "in") + -cumbere "lie down," related to cubare "to lie" (see cubicle). Extended to holders of any office from 1670s.
"lying or resting on something," 1560s, originally "lying or resting on as a duty or obligation, imposed," from Medieval Latin incumbentem (nominative incumbens), present participle of incumbere (see incumbent (n.)). The literal, physical sense "lying or resting on something" is attested from 1620s but is rare in English.
updated on August 15, 2022