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[in-urt, ih-nurt] /ɪnˈɜrt, ɪˈnɜrt/
having no inherent power of action, motion, or resistance (opposed to active):
inert matter.
Chemistry. having little or no ability to react, as nitrogen that occurs uncombined in the atmosphere.
Pharmacology. having no pharmacological action, as the excipient of a pill.
inactive or sluggish by habit or nature.
Origin of inert
1640-50; < Latin inert- (stem of iners) unskillful, equivalent to in- in-3 + -ert-, combining form of art- (stem of ars) skill; see art1
Related forms
inertly, adverb
inertness, noun
noninert, adjective
noninertly, adverb
noninertness, noun
uninert, adjective
uninertly, adverb
1. immobile, unmoving, lifeless, motionless. 4. See inactive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for inert
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Johnny Rosenfeld still lay in his ward, inert from the waist down.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • And when bending over that inert face I felt that there was no longer any breath!

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • The chauffeur got down, shook his fare by the arm, and the arm was inert.

    A Nest of Spies Pierre Souvestre
  • There he saw the inert figures of the girl, and Tom Franklin.

    The World Beyond Raymond King Cummings
  • An atom of any kind is not the inert thing it has been supposed to be, for it can do something.

    The Machinery of the Universe Amos Emerson Dolbear
British Dictionary definitions for inert


having no inherent ability to move or to resist motion
inactive, lazy, or sluggish
having only a limited ability to react chemically; unreactive
Derived Forms
inertly, adverb
inertness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin iners unskilled, from in-1 + ars skill; see art1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for inert

1640s, from French inerte (16c.) or directly from Latin inertem (nominative iners) "unskilled, inactive, helpless, sluggish, worthless," from in- "without" + ars (genitive artis) "skill" (see art (n.)). Originally of matter; specifically of gases from 1885. Of persons or creatures, from 1774.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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inert in Medicine

inert in·ert (ĭn-ûrt')

  1. Sluggish in action or motion; lethargic.

  2. Not readily reactive with other chemical elements; forming few or no chemical compounds.

  3. Having no pharmacologic or therapeutic action.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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inert in Science
Not chemically reactive.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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