in·​ept | \i-ˈnept \

Definition of inept 

1 : lacking in fitness or aptitude : unfit inept at sports

2 : lacking sense or reason : foolish

3 : not suitable to the time, place, or occasion : inappropriate often to an absurd degree an inept metaphor

4 : generally incompetent : bungling inept leadership

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Other Words from inept

ineptly \ i-​ˈnep(t)-​lē \ adverb
ineptness \ i-​ˈnept-​nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for inept

awkward, clumsy, maladroit, inept, gauche mean not marked by ease (as of performance, movement, or social conduct). awkward is widely applicable and may suggest unhandiness, inconvenience, lack of muscular control, embarrassment, or lack of tact. periods of awkward silence clumsy implies stiffness and heaviness and so may connote inflexibility, unwieldiness, or lack of ordinary skill. a clumsy mechanic maladroit suggests a tendency to create awkward situations. a maladroit politician inept often implies complete failure or inadequacy. a hopelessly inept defense attorney gauche implies the effects of shyness, inexperience, or ill breeding. felt gauche and unsophisticated at formal parties

Examples of inept in a Sentence

Not only does the post have a narrow mandate, covering such sexy subjects as nuclear waste and solar energy, but the secretary presides over the most inept bureaucrats in the land. — Franklin Foer, New Republic, 3 July 2000 The real hackers have an understanding of technology at a basic level.  … The rest are talentless poseurs and hangers-on, either completely inept or basic criminals. — Bruce Schneier, Secrets & Lies, 2000 To Cornelius, the White House travel office must have seemed—as it would have to any of the others who had served on the tight ship of the campaign's travel operation—an appallingly inept … operation. — Peter J. Boyer, New Yorker, 15 Apr. 1996 He was completely inept at sports. He made an inept attempt to apologize.
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Recent Examples on the Web

That was the closest the inept Earthquakes (2-7-3) came to a shot on goal until the 89th minute, when Bingham got a hand on a long Danny Hoesen strike and deflected it off the crossbar. Kevin Baxter,, "No Ibrahimovic, no problem as Bingham and Galaxy put together back-to-back shutouts," 26 May 2018 Even Byron Allen couldn’t have predicted the perfect storm of demographics, inept politicians, charismatic kids and engaged media that has overtaken the nation. Jason Johnson, The Root, "Yes, the March for Our Lives Was About Black People, Too—and It’s About Time," 26 Mar. 2018 The conversations have attracted attention for Jones' frank recollections about Ray Charles and heroin, the Beatles' inept musicianship and a dinner date with Ivanka Trump. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "What Quincy Jones said about Indiana native Michael Jackson," 7 Feb. 2018 Even if the season was something of a fluke, in comparison to the modestly talented Pads then, the seven successors have looked rather inept while never so much as threatening to join a playoff race. Tom Krasovic,, "Spiffy, subsidized ballpark is outperforming another bad Padres club," 30 Apr. 2018 Wolff, by his own account, seemed to inhabit the West Wing for an extended period of time while collecting blockbuster quotes and assembling juicy anecdotes that made the White House look inept, confused and amateurish. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "The details of how Michael Wolff penetrated the White House are the most damning of all," 17 Jan. 2018 These soundtracked passages of almost uniformly inept Meisner capoeira are all the more grating because the interactions on either side of them are so vibrant. Max Maller, Chicago Reader, "Fucking Men struggles with onstage intimacy realness," 11 July 2018 The guy who was previously borderline inept against right-handed pitching lined a 1-1 cutter from right-hander Drew Rucinski to left field. Kevin Acee,, "Padres' Renfroe again provides late lift in win over Marlins," 9 June 2018 Perhaps in the interim, the experiences of women with autism should teach us to be more tolerant of socially inept behavior in women—or less tolerant of it in men. Maia Szalavitz, Scientific American, "Autism—It's Different in Girls," 1 Mar. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inept.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of inept

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for inept

Middle French inepte, from Latin ineptus, from in- + aptus apt

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Statistics for inept

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inept

The first known use of inept was in 1542

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More Definitions for inept



English Language Learners Definition of inept

: lacking skill or ability

: showing a lack of skill or ability : not done well


in·​ept | \i-ˈnept \

Kids Definition of inept

1 : not suited to the occasion an inept remark

2 : lacking in skill or ability an inept painter

Other Words from inept

ineptly adverb
ineptness noun

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Comments on inept

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by force of circumstances

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