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

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 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

Some managers are gratuitously cruel or simply inept. Robert Samuelson, Twin Cities, "Robert Samuelson: ‘Corporate responsibility’ and the lessons of history," 25 Aug. 2019 Very loosely inspired by World War II movies like The Great Escape (1963), Heroes featured a motley crew of inmates in a German prisoner-of-war camp outfoxing a remarkably inept Third Reich for six seasons. Lynette Rice,, "The tragic, unsolved murder of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane," 26 Aug. 2019 Between that three-game series and the first two of this weekend, their offense has posted comically inept numbers. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Diamondbacks' hitting woes at Miller Park continue in another quiet loss to Brewers," 24 Aug. 2019 Warren was able to leapfrog the traditional résumé demands of statewide candidates via inadvertent boosts from both a timorous Barack Obama and the most inept Democratic Senate candidate in recent memory. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Arguing the World," 15 Aug. 2019 She is so withdrawn that even her emotionally inept husband Nathan (James Tupper) realizes something is wrong. Ariana Romero,, "The Big Little Lies Finale Is Coming — Which Of The Monterey Five Will Spill The Lie?," 15 July 2019 The German has followed in the path of Phil Jones for being constantly ridiculed by English football fans for being utterly reckless and positionally inept., "Arsenal Exits: Who Could Leave the Emirates Stadium to Fund Overzealous Wilfried Zaha Move," 26 June 2019 The former British ambassador to Washington called his administration dysfunctional, unpredictable, faction-riven, diplomatically clumsy and inept. The Economist, "Are Western democracies becoming ungovernable?," 1 Aug. 2019 Of course, after being publicly called inept, the president responded on Twitter. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "While You Were Offline: So Long, Alex Acosta," 14 July 2019

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

18 Oct 2019

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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 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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More from Merriam-Webster on inept

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inept

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inept

Spanish Central: Translation of inept

Nglish: Translation of inept for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inept for Arabic Speakers

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