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

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 In one case, for instance, robots were proving inept at bolting down seats and connecting wiring to them, so human beings took over those tasks—though robots still move the seats into place. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "The Agility, Persistence, and Pain Behind Tesla’s Model 3 Manufacturing Turnaround," 1 July 2018 An inept armed robber tried to hit a Pompano Beach BP station and got his caught with his fingers in the register — by force. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "A robber stuck his fingers in the register. That's when the clerk made a quick move," 9 July 2018 The defense was inept last October against run-heavy Boston College. Jake Lourim, The Courier-Journal, "How Louisville football can (and can’t) beat Georgia Tech," 7 July 2018 The show not only features a spinster schoolteacher but also plenty of personalities including an inept detective, a stingy restaurant owner, a spoiled niece and a doting cowboy suitor. Jessi Virtusio, Daily Southtown, "Audience assists in solving ‘Touchtone 'M' for Murder’ mystery in Orland Park," 6 July 2018 However, an inept bullpen is Colorado’s front-burner issue. Tom Krasovic,, "With big salaries coming, Wil Myers getting on track would be big for Padres," 20 June 2018

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

23 Aug 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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