insipid, vapid, flat, jejune, banal, inane mean devoid of qualities that make for spirit and character. insipid implies a lack of sufficient taste or savor to please or interest.
an insipid romance with platitudes on every page vapid suggests a lack of liveliness, force, or spirit.
an exciting story given a vapid treatment flat applies to things that have lost their sparkle or zest.
although well-regarded in its day, the novel now seems flatjejune suggests a lack of rewarding or satisfying substance.
a jejune and gassy speech banal stresses the complete absence of freshness, novelty, or immediacy.
a banal tale of unrequited love inane implies a lack of any significant or convincing quality.
an inane interpretation of the play
Insipid vs. Incipient
There are those who claim that these two words are commonly confused, though the collected evidence in our files don’t support that claim (in edited prose, that is). If there is confusion, it is likely because incipient is sometimes used in constructions where its meaning is not clear.
Insipid is less common than incipient, but it is used more in general prose and with much more clarity than incipient is. Insipid means “weak,” and it can refer to people (“insipid hangers-on”), things (“what an insipid idea,” “painted the room an insipid blue,” “he gave his boss an insipid smile”), and specifically flavors or foods (“an insipid soup,” “the cocktail was insipid and watery”).
Incipient, on the other hand, is more common than insipid is and means “beginning to come into being or become apparent.” It has general use (“an incipient idea,” “incipient racial tensions”), but also has extensive specialized use in medicine (“an incipient disease”) and other scientific fields (“an incipient star in a distant galaxy”). But general use of incipient is sometime vague at best:
But devaluing grand slams to 3 1/2 runs has irked even the guys it was meant to pacify. "They're messing with the game," says incipient slugger Randy Johnson (three grannies already this spring). "Not to mention my RBI totals." — ESPN, 14 June 1999
Among my generation of aesthetes, bohemians, proto-dropouts, and incipient eternal students at Sydney University in the late 1950s, Robert Hughes was the golden boy. — Clive James, The New York Review, 11 Jan. 2007
This menu looks traditional but embraces ingredients and ideas that have become incipient classics in American cuisine, such as portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and mango. — Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 30 Nov. 1995
Incipient is rarely used of people, and so the first example is an atypical use of the word. As for the other examples, can something that is just beginning to emerge be eternal, or a classic? Uses like this tend to confuse the reader.
If you find yourself unsure of which word to use, follow the rule that when referring to someone or something weak, use insipid, and when referring to something that is newly apparent or newly begun, use incipient.
Examples of insipid in a Sentence
While it is fashionable to write off that decade as an insipid time, one long pajama party, the '50s, in sport at least, were a revolutionary age.— Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, 27 Dec. 1999–31 Jan. 2000I'd climbed and fished in the emptiest reaches of the American West, but Alaska made the wilds of the lower 48 seem insipid and tame, a toothless simulacrum.— Jon Krakauer, Smithsonian, June 1995By contrast, what we know as "popular" or "mass" culture has always conformed to the most insipid prejudices, and the least subtle formulations, of society.— Joyce Carol Oates, The Profane Art, 1983One evening, over beers, Rasala complained about some insipid movie recently shown on TV.— Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine, 1981
The soup was rather insipid.
an apple pie with a mushy, insipid filling that strongly resembled soggy cardboard
Recent Examples on the WebMost of the larger tomatoes available in grocery stores have an insipid flavor and mealy texture.
Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, 12 Jan. 2022 Meanwhile, earnings were unexpectedly good in the third quarter, and revenues were unexpectedly insipid.
Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 26 Oct. 2021 Juve was two years of insipid football that is fondly remembered by no one.
Emmet Gates, Forbes, 25 Oct. 2021 Those changes backfired as the Rising fell, 1-0, in a relatively insipid performance.
Theo Mackie, The Arizona Republic, 16 Oct. 2021 The collaboration between Boedecker Cellars in Portland and The Olde McKenzie Bitters Co. in Eugene proves white wine spritzers don’t have to be insipid, sugary cocktails.
Michael Alberty | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 10 Sep. 2021 Hers, on the other hand, is a seemingly endless timeline: a decade of insipid daily life.
Rebecca Makkai, Harper's Magazine, 17 Aug. 2021 This is the most insipid, insidious kind of political filmmaking, like that disingenuous eight-hour exposition-funeral.
Armond White, National Review, 11 Aug. 2021 Goldman loves to talk about the Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon, which makes for insipid eating but has an enticing aroma that prompted women in the past to carry them around in their pockets as a type of perfume.
Washington Post, 19 July 2021
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'insipid.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.