What Does “Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed” Mean?

The common saying “not the sharpest tool in the shed” is a very popular phrase that describes someone who is unintelligent in some manner. Additionally, it is usually used to compare to others, showing that someone isn’t conventionally smart.

There are many similar sayings that all mean the same thing. For instance, you may have heard that someone is “not the brightest crayon in the box” or that they are “not the sharpest tool in the shed.” No matter the usage, these sayings usually have the same meaning. 

How Did “Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed” Originate? 

This common phrase most likely arose from simple observations about tools. For instance, there are many different tools in a given shed. Some could be as sharp as a saw, whereas others may be as dull as a hammer. All of this should show how simple attaching the idea of sharpness is to tools; but what about people?

When “sharp” describes people, it normally means they are smart or intelligent. So, by saying someone is “sharp” or “not sharp,” you are otherwise describing them as “smart” or “not smart.”

Most sources agree that this saying has not been around for a long time and originated in the late 20th century. Some of the most common/earliest examples date from the early and mid-1980s.

Examples Of “Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed”

  • When it comes down to schoolwork, Tim is not the sharpest tool in the shed. When he does choose to do his schoolwork, he normally receives a failing grade.
  • My dog rex isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He couldn’t distinguish a piece of his kibble from a piece of dust. 
  • Samantha is just the sharpest tool in the shed regarding strategy. She is always 15 moves ahead of her opponent when she plays a chess game! 

Variations on the Phrase:

  • No the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.
  • Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
  • Not the brightest crayon in the box.

You can find more common expressions explained here

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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