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 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 And in fact, people aren’t entirely inept at regeneration. Amber Dance, Smithsonian Magazine, "Some Salamanders Can Regrow Lost Body Parts. Could Humans One Day Do the Same?," 31 Jan. 2020 The people of Iraq have had much to protest: Their post-Saddam government has been shot through with corruption and sectarianism while proving utterly inept at security operations and the provision of basic public services. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, "The Pinnacle of Trump’s Foreign Policy Stupidity," 3 Jan. 2020 The Texans were inept, especially in pass coverage as Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns and was only sacked once. Aaron Wilson, Houston Chronicle, "Bill O'Brien defends Texans' offensive showing in loss to Broncos," 9 Dec. 2019 Both teams are coming off inept, humbling losses – the Bears losing at home 26-3 to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Vikings losing their first home game of the season 23-10 to the Green Bay Packers. John Holler, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings odds, picks and best bets," 26 Dec. 2019 Many Algerians view the government as corrupt and inept. Washington Post, "Algeria elects ex-premier as new leader, but anger remains on the streets," 13 Dec. 2019 There weren’t repeated red-zone failures or obviously inept play calls. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "What the Cleveland Browns and Michigan Wolverines had in common on rivalry weekend," 2 Dec. 2019 Cal, inept on offense and outstanding on defense, runs even more often. Christopher Smith, al, "Week 4 SEC football betting preview," 21 Sep. 2019 However, not good enough to compensate for their inept play in the secondary. Eddie Herz, The Denver Post, "Three keys to a Colorado State Rams football victory over New Mexico," 10 Oct. 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 2

History and Etymology for inept

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

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Time Traveler for inept

Time Traveler

The first known use of inept was in 1542

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Statistics for inept

Last Updated

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inept.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for inept


How to pronounce inept (audio)

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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