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

Synonyms & Similar Words

Antonyms & Near Antonyms


Synonym Chooser

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

Thesaurus Entries Near inept

Cite this Entry

“Inept.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on inept

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