in·​ept | \ i-ˈnept How to pronounce inept (audio) \

Definition of inept

1 : generally incompetent : bungling inept leadership
2 : lacking in fitness or aptitude : unfit inept at sports
3 : not suitable to the time, place, or occasion : inappropriate often to an absurd degree an inept metaphor
4 : lacking sense or reason : foolish

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Other Words from inept

ineptly \ i-​ˈnep(t)-​lē How to pronounce ineptly (audio) \ adverb
ineptness \ i-​ˈnept-​nəs How to pronounce ineptness (audio) \ 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 Its pass coverage breaks down repeatedly, which is why its only victim with a winning record was Army, an inept passing team. G Smith,, "Three and Out: Guerry's thoughts on Tulane's 30-24 double-overtime loss to Tulsa," 20 Nov. 2020 The state’s propaganda machine relentlessly mocked Trump for his inept response to the outbreak and touted Beijing’s own virus-fighting success as evidence that its governance system was a superior model for the world. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, "How Xi Jinping Blew It," 19 Nov. 2020 The Vikings' patchwork defense kept rolling against an inept Bears offense, forcing four consecutive three-and-out drives from Bears quarterback Nick Foles out of halftime. Andrew Krammer, Star Tribune, "Vikings special teams have not-so-special game against Bears," 17 Nov. 2020 Trump’s inept mishandling of the wolf-wearing-my-son’s-clothes-and-pretending-to-be-my-son issue, as well as his complete ignorance of wolf history, was at the forefront of voters’ minds this year. Evan Waite, The New Yorker, "With Trump Leaving, We Can Finally Stop Worrying About This Wolf," 13 Nov. 2020 The 49ers were certainly helped by what has become a shockingly inept Patriots' offense and erratic quarterback Cam Newton. oregonlive, "San Francisco 49ers dominate in Jimmy Garoppolo’s return to New England," 26 Oct. 2020 Changing a corrupt administration for an inept one will be hard to accept when there is so much at stake. Keeanga-yamahtta Taylor, The New Yorker, "Voting Trump Out Is Not Enough," 9 Nov. 2020 While the Vikings were improving to 3-5 and catching the Lions in the NFC North, the Chicago Bears were looking inept against Tennessee, adding intrigue to the Vikings’ trip to Chicago next week. Jim Souhan, Star Tribune, "Vikings quick reaction: Cook, D, dominate Lions," 8 Nov. 2020 And the pandemic, which rages unchecked in this country because of inept leadership by the federal government, consistently reveals that the most vulnerable are also the most unprotected in society. Otis R. Taylor Jr.,, "Affordable housing exempt from rent-freeze legislation," 5 Nov. 2020

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 2

History and Etymology for inept

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

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Time Traveler for inept

Time Traveler

The first known use of inept was in 1542

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Statistics for inept

Last Updated

26 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inept.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for inept


How to pronounce inept (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inept

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


in·​ept | \ i-ˈnept How to pronounce inept (audio) \

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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