not the sharpest tool in the shed

not the sharpest tool in the shed


  • someone who is not very clever, according to others
  • not very intelligent
  • a bit slow
  • slightly (or a lot) behind the rest at getting a joke.
  • stupid

Example Sentences

  1. Joe doesn’t seem to understand that we’re working to a different schedule now, since the workload has doubled.  He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.
  2. Great Uncle Bob was never the sharpest tool in the shed.  It’s better now that he’s completely deaf, because now we no longer have to explain everything to him every five minutes.
  3. My brother’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.  I think he might have been dropped on his head as a baby.
  4. I knew she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but honestly – I didn’t know she was THAT dense!
  5. I admit I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed – but at least give me the benefit of the doubt and let me enter the quiz.


The exact origin is unclear, but the reference to sharpness means mentally quick, so not the sharpest… means not clever. There are many phrases of a similar format which  convey the same meaning as this one. e.g.  not the sharpest knife in the drawer. These types of idiom became popular around the 1990s, when many variations were coined. Some may be older.


Not the brightest crayon in the coloring box; not the sharpest pencil in the pencil box.  Also with the same meaning but slightly different format: a sandwich short of a picnic; a flower short of a bouquet; a tile short of a roof; a few bricks short (or shy) of a load.

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