adjective il·lit·er·ate \(ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-t(ə-)rət\

: not knowing how to read or write

: having or showing a lack of knowledge about a particular subject

: not grammatically correct

Full Definition of ILLITERATE

:  having little or no education; especially :  unable to read or write <an illiterate population>
a :  showing or marked by a lack of familiarity with language and literature <an illiterate magazine>
b :  violating approved patterns of speaking or writing
:  showing or marked by a lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge <musically illiterate>
illiterate noun
il·lit·er·ate·ly adverb
il·lit·er·ate·ness noun

Examples of ILLITERATE

  1. She didn't want anyone to know that she was illiterate.
  2. She is politically illiterate and has never voted in an election.
  3. He's illiterate when it comes to computers.
  4. Constantine is listed in the 1870 census as illiterate; 10 years later, he had learned to read and write. And when, in 1906, the local colored school was slated for destruction, Constantine arranged to save it by having it moved to this property. —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Wall Street Journal, 1 Feb. 2006


Middle English, from Latin illiteratus, from in- + litteratus literate
First Known Use: 15th century


Synonym Discussion of ILLITERATE

ignorant, illiterate, unlettered, untutored, unlearned mean not having knowledge. ignorant may imply a general condition or it may apply to lack of knowledge or awareness of a particular thing <an ignorant fool> <ignorant of nuclear physics>. illiterate applies to either an absolute or a relative inability to read and write <much of the population is still illiterate>. unlettered implies ignorance of the knowledge gained by reading <an allusion meaningless to the unlettered>. untutored may imply lack of schooling in the arts and ways of civilization <strange monuments built by an untutored people>. unlearned suggests ignorance of advanced subjects <poetry not for academics but for the unlearned masses>.

Other Education Terms

baccalaureate, colloquium, corequisite, dissertation, monograph, pedant, practicum, survey course, thesis
ILLITERATELY Defined for Kids


adjective il·lit·er·ate \i-ˈli-tə-rət\

Definition of ILLITERATE for Kids

:  unable to read or write



Definition of ILLITERATE for Kids

:  a person who is unable to read or write


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