The significance of transversal competencies has been stressed in general educational policy concepts and in competence catalogues since the 2000s. Transversal competencies are understood to be competencies which are viewed as central to the ability of individuals in modern knowledge societies to master and help shape private, social and work situations. The various descriptions and definitions exhibit a large number of commonalities, as a comparison between three international competence catalogues demonstrates. However, the transversality of competencies needs to be critically scrutinised on the basis of theoretical considerations and empirical findings. This article discusses the conditions under which competencies can be broadly transferred and used transversally and debates whether context-independent competencies are a realistic notion.