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

But at least for one afternoon, they were rendered inept. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, "The Twins played their second marathon game in nine days. This time, they lost," 27 June 2019 This season, the duo have taken on a sort of inept charm in their misadventures together, reminiscent of Legends of Tomorrow’s time-bros Ray Palmer and Nate Heywood. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "In season 2, Krypton keeps viewers guessing," 12 June 2019 Tim Piazza was injured in falling down a set of basement steps, after which fraternity members made inept and even counterproductive efforts to help him. Mark Scolforo, The Seattle Times, "Anti-hazing law in Penn St. student’s name goes to governor," 15 Oct. 2018 Among James and Lachlan Murdoch, the two princes jousting for control of the actual empire, take your pick between Kieran Culkin, who plays the reckless Roman, and Jeremey Strong, who plays his ruthless but inept brother, Kendall. Ben Widdicombe, Town & Country, "Confirmed: Yes, Rupert Murdoch's Family Enjoys Watching "Succession"," 8 Apr. 2019 Perhaps only in a dream can one be so blithely inept. John Anderson, WSJ, "The Heights of Obsession," 22 Feb. 2019 Other than that, the real suspense will be whether the M’s are inept enough to earn the No. 1 draft pick. Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "Pitchers and catchers reporting in a month brings little sunshine for Mariners fans," 13 Jan. 2019 This is the groaning game, an inept tale of danger, entrapment and dismemberment. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, "‘Greta’ Review: Big Names, Small Chills," 28 Feb. 2019 Queen Village resident Warren Lipka was once a main player in one of the most inept heists of all time, in which a group of friends failed to steal from a $20 million book collection. Aubrey Nagle,, "Summer arts guide, Wells Fargo Center to get a new look | Morning Newsletter," 7 June 2018

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

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

Comments on inept

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to form ideas or theories about something

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