adjective in·ept \ i-ˈnept \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

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


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 FoerNew Republic3 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 SchneierSecrets & Lies2000
  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. BoyerNew Yorker15 Apr. 1996
  4. He was completely inept at sports.

  5. He made an inept attempt to apologize.

Recent Examples of inept from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of inept

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

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


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 : not suited to the occasion
  • an inept remark
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.

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to beat or defeat soundly

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