Thesaurus

inept

adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms of inept

1 lacking qualities (as knowledge, skill, or ability) required to do a job
  • a well-meaning but inept secretary who can't seem to keep the boss's appointments straight

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2 not appropriate for a particular occasion or situation
  • an inept comparison between nursing-home residents and day-care children that many found offensive

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3 showing or marked by a lack of skill and tact (as in dealing with a situation)
  • an inept effort to become friends with their future son-in-law

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4 showing or marked by a lack of good sense or judgment
  • she offers one inept suggestion after another for saving the parish church

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Frequently Asked Questions About inept

How does the adjective inept contrast with its synonyms?

Some common synonyms of inept are awkward, clumsy, gauche, and maladroit. While all these words mean "not marked by ease (as of performance, movement, or social conduct)," inept often implies complete failure or inadequacy.

a hopelessly inept defense attorney

When is it sensible to use awkward instead of inept?

The words awkward and inept can be used in similar contexts, but awkward is widely applicable and may suggest unhandiness, inconvenience, lack of muscular control, embarrassment, or lack of tact.

periods of awkward silence

In what contexts can clumsy take the place of inept?

The meanings of clumsy and inept largely overlap; however, clumsy implies stiffness and heaviness and so may connote inflexibility, unwieldiness, or lack of ordinary skill.

a clumsy mechanic

When might gauche be a better fit than inept?

The synonyms gauche and inept are sometimes interchangeable, but gauche implies the effects of shyness, inexperience, or ill breeding.

felt gauche and unsophisticated at formal parties

When could maladroit be used to replace inept?

In some situations, the words maladroit and inept are roughly equivalent. However, maladroit suggests a tendency to create awkward situations.

a maladroit politician

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Time Traveler for inept

Time Traveler

The first known use of inept was in 1542

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Cite this Entry

“Inept.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/inept. Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on inept

Dictionary: Definition of inept

Nglish: Translation of inept for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inept for Arabic Speakers

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