Can 'Incur' be used for something positive? Dictionary.com defines it as "to come into or acquire (some consequence, usually undesirable or injurious)". The key word in the definition here is "usually".

Does that mean that it is acceptable to use 'incur' for something positive? Eg. "doing this will incur a benefit"


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    It's not at all common, but there are a handful of written instances of incurred favour in Google Books, most of which are unambiguously "positive". There are actually quite a few more instances of incurred favor, but I can only really have an opinion on British usage. Sep 18, 2017 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


Words can be used in clever ways to create subtle shades of meaning, which is the essence of creative writing. Because incur is generally a negative word, even if used with something positive, it implies some kind of hidden consequence or risk.

He was warned not to incur the gratitude of the local mob boss, as Big Vinny never liked being in debt to anyone.

"Gratitude" is positive, but the sentence clearly implies that this might not be such a good thing.

More commonly incur is used with negative consequence: "incur the wrath of his ex-wife", "incur the scrutiny of the IRS", etc.

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