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 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web That agent, played by Damon Wayans Jr., is somehow even more inept. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, "Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar," 11 Feb. 2021 The Bruins were particularly inept at 5-on-5 vs. Tampa in the playoffs, leading to their second-round knockout by the Bolts, 4 games to 1. Kevin Paul Dupont,, "Approaching quarter mark of season, Bruins need to improve 5-on-5 scoring," 7 Feb. 2021 Mississippi State’s inept performance came just days after star Kylin Hill opted out of the remainder of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft. John Talty |, al, "Dan Mullen should be embarrassed, Mississippi State is a disaster," 1 Nov. 2020 Quarterback Carson Wentz committed four turnovers, and Philadelphia couldn't exploit a historically inept Cowboy defense. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "NFL Week 8 winners, losers: Mike Tomlin has Steelers looking like legitimate Super Bowl contender," 2 Nov. 2020 Steve Carell’s role as Michael Scott—the inept manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton, Pennsylvania branch—netted the actor six Emmy nominations and is regarded as one of the best comedic performances in recent TV history. Adam Epstein, Quartz, "“The Office” is the most powerful force in streaming," 13 Jan. 2021 With the aid of inept defense lawyers, a Louisiana courtroom gave Rideau a sentence of death. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Why America Loves the Death Penalty," 11 Jan. 2021 Sunday didn’t start off much better, with the Steelers — inept on offense in recent weeks — falling 17 points behind the Colts. Childs Walker,, "Five Things We Learned from the Ravens’ 27-13 win over the New York Giants," 28 Dec. 2020 Meanwhile, the inept Congress Party leader, Rahul Gandhi, a fourth-generation dynastic politician, symbolizes a flailing opposition short of ideas and charisma. Sadanand Dhume, WSJ, "What’s Worse Than 2020 in America?," 28 Dec. 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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Statistics for inept

Last Updated

24 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inept.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Mar. 2021.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inept

Nglish: Translation of inept for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inept for Arabic Speakers

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