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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from inept

ineptly \ i-​ˈnep(t)-​lē How to pronounce inept (audio) \ adverb
ineptness \ i-​ˈnept-​nəs How to pronounce inept (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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The Falcons looked downright inept in their first game under coach Arthur Smith. Paul Newberry, ajc, 12 Sep. 2021 Variants that can escape the immune response might be inept at hacking into cells to cause infections. Andrew Joseph, STAT, 22 Aug. 2021 The best way to get people talking about your favorite college football program is to either be consistently relevant or be so inept that the mere mention of that school elicits head-shaking and laughter. Scooby Axson, USA TODAY, 28 Aug. 2021 He's done that by being utterly inept in Afghanistan. John Brummett, Arkansas Online, 24 Aug. 2021 But during a stop at Kandahar Airfield, Carter briefly wandered off script and admitted that the Afghans had been inept until recently — contradicting the glossy assessments U.S. officials had presented to the public for more than a decade. Washington Post, 9 Aug. 2021 Variants that can escape the immune response might be inept at hacking into cells to cause infections. Andrew Joseph, STAT, 21 Aug. 2021 Top foreign policy experts warned Wednesday that China is looking to profit from what critics are calling the U.S.' disorganized and inept withdrawal from Afghanistan. Caitlin Mcfall, Fox News, 19 Aug. 2021 The evacuation at the end of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has drawn widespread criticism as too slow and too inept, and President Joe Biden on Monday admitted there had been mistakes in how the exit unfolded. Adam Carlson,, 19 Aug. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About inept

Dictionary Entries Near inept




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for inept

Last Updated

16 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inept.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

More from Merriam-Webster on inept

Nglish: Translation of inept for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inept for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!