Not the sharpest tool in the shed: Meaning, synonyms & origin + 9 example sentences

What does “Not the sharpest tool in the shed” mean?

The idiom “not the sharpest tool in the shed” means someone who lacks intelligence, intellect, or smartness. It can be used to point out to a person who is naïve, dull, stupid, uneducated, or simply lags behind in comprehending jokes. Such an individual is often not considered clever or crafty.

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9 examples of how to use “Not the sharpest tool in the shed” in a sentence

  • Ahmed might not be the sharpest tool in the shed for this project, as he is not good at socializing.
  • I would have loved to help you, but I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to mathematics.
  • You have amazing cognitive skills; however, you are not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to interpersonal skills.
  • I shouldn’t have trusted you—you were never the sharpest tool in the shed anyway.
  • Believe me when I say Rosette is not the sharpest tool in the shed; she forgot to bring her bag to school!
  • Although Blake is not the sharpest tool in the shed, he is still trustworthy.
  • I think the people who are the kindest, are usually not the sharpest tool in the shed.
  • Most of the people in our class have good grades, except for the ‘Sunny Squad’. They are just not the sharpest tool in the shed in terms of studies.
  • Not being the sharpest tool in the shed, doesn’t make one any less worthy of respect.

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The origin of “Not the sharpest tool in the shed”

The expression “not the sharpest tool in the shed” has a vague etymology. Hence the exact time and place of its origin are unknown. However, the most probable presumption suggests that it became popular in the late twentieth century, particularly in the 1990s. The first use was recorded in July 1994 in a newspaper (Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph newspaper).

Besides this, the word ‘sharp/bright’ has been associated with intelligence, or smartness for a long time. Likewise, the word ‘dull/dim’ has had a connection with stupid, or slow-witted. This connection dates back to over 800 years, possibly in the Middle Ages. Therefore, the term might have come into existence, with relation to tools. So, a metaphoric association can be hypothesized between sharp tools and intelligence, and between blunt tools and slow-wittedness. Other related expressions also came into existence afterward, with slight variations (above 20). Some terms include, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, not the brightest bulb in the box, not the brightest pebble on the beach, not the sharpest pencil in the pencil box, not the brightest crayon in the box, etc. These variations might have originated to meet with the modern world terms. This indicates that the said idiom is fairly common in usage.

Synonyms for “Not the sharpest tool in the shed”

Unintelligent, dumb, stupid, dimwit, airhead, brainless, slow-witted, doltish, idiotic, obtuse, think-skulled, silly, foolish, imbecile, pea-brained, fat-headed, irrational, unwise, imprudent, half-witted, cretinous, gullible, naïve, unworldly, uninitiated, ignorant, artless, imperceptive, unknowledgeable, witless, vacuous, vapid, dull, dense, slow-witted, gormless, dopey, lamebrain, oaf.

Idioms related to “Not the sharpest tool in the shed”

  • Not the brightest bulb in the box
  • Not the brightest crayon in the box
  • Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
  • Not the sharpest pencil in the pencil box
  • Not the brightest pebble on the beach
  • Missing gray matter
  • Missing brain cells
  • Dumb as a box of rocks
  • Dumb as a bag of hammers
  • Lights are on, but nobody’s home
  • Weak in the head
  • As thick as a brick
  • As daft as a brush
  • A few bricks short of a (full) load
  • As smart as bait
  • A few cards short of a full deck
  • Not have much between the ears
  • Ain’t got a grain of sense