adjective in·ept \i-ˈnept\

Definition of inept

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

  2. 2 :  lacking sense or reason :  foolish

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

  4. 4 :  generally incompetent :  bungling inept leadership


play \i-ˈnep(t)-lē\ adverb


play \i-ˈnept-nəs\ noun

Examples of inept in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. He was completely inept at sports.

  5. He made an inept attempt to apologize.

Origin and Etymology of inept

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

First Known Use: 1542

Synonym Discussion of 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

INEPT Defined for English Language Learners


adjective in·ept \i-ˈnept\

Definition of inept for English Language Learners

  • : lacking skill or ability

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

INEPT Defined for Kids


adjective in·ept \i-ˈnept\

Definition of inept for Students

  1. 1 :  not suited to the occasion an inept remark

  2. 2 :  lacking in skill or ability an inept painter





Word Root of inept

The Latin word aptus, meaning “fit” or “suitable,” gives us the root apt or ept. Words from the Latin aptus have something to do with being fitting or suitable. Something apt fits just right into a situation. To adapt is to change in order to fit a situation better. Someone who is adept has suitable skills to perform a task well, while someone who is inept does not.

Seen and Heard

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feeling or affected by lethargy

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