ig·​no·​rant ˈig-n(ə-)rənt How to pronounce ignorant (audio)
: destitute of knowledge or education
an ignorant society
also : lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
parents ignorant of modern mathematics
: resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence
ignorant errors
ignorantly adverb
ignorantness noun

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The Polite and Not-So-Polite Uses of Ignorant

Ignorant shares a root with the word ignore, one of those etymological connections which appear obvious once they are pointed out, yet remained overlooked by most. Both words come from the Latin ignorare (“to ignore, be ignorant of”). There are several meanings of ignorant, all of which are concerned with a lack of knowledge in some sense; some of these are more insulting than others, and care should be exercised before applying this word to people who you do not wish to offend. Saying “They were ignorant of most of the laws of physics” means that the people in question did not have a specific body of learning. Saying “You are an ignorant person” is possibly describing someone as primitive, crude, or uncivilized.

Choose the Right Synonym for ignorant

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

Example Sentences

… the World Series of the wild-card era is the pull of a slot-machine lever, a game of chance ignorant of form. Regularly populated now with second-place clubs or flavor-of-the-month teams more than dominant regular-season franchises … Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, 30 Oct. 2006
That may be especially true for today's … 13-year-olds, whose own moms and dads grew up largely ignorant of car seats, bike helmets, antibacterial soaps and childproof locks … Nancy Gibbs, Time, 8 Aug. 2005
The joke is that the film was not his work. To refer to a producer's oeuvre is, at least to me, as ignorant as to refer to the oeuvre of a stockbroker. David Mamet, Jafsie and John Henry: Essays, 1999
He is an ignorant old racist. She was ignorant about the dangers of the drug. It was an ignorant mistake. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Mickey nodded enthusiastically about keeping things secret and smiled conspiratorially, ignorant of her own demise. ELLE, 26 Apr. 2023 In recent years, Colón has gone from a salsa legend to a controversial figure who has embraced right-wing ideology, including ignorant attacks against the trans community. Juan J. Arroyo, Rolling Stone, 12 Apr. 2023 Staying ignorant about personal finance only benefits those who want to take money from you. Phoebe Gavin, CNN, 11 Apr. 2023 Hi Sahaj: What is my obligation to educate ignorant people? Sahaj Kaur Kohli, Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2023 Your letter does not come across as being from someone ignorant. Annie Lane, oregonlive, 15 Dec. 2022 Curiously, despite the GOP’s underwhelming performance on Nov. 8, Romney takes an even harder line on the social insurance programs, and an even more ignorant explanation for inflation, than his party colleagues have put forth. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2022 This ignorant, hateful rhetoric has absolutely no place in our city, or anywhere else. Drake Bentley, Journal Sentinel, 23 Mar. 2023 In some instances, medical or educational staff might be racially biased or culturally ignorant. Sarah Carr, USA TODAY, 7 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ignorant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


see ignore

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of ignorant was in the 14th century

Cite this Entry

“Ignorant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ignorant. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


ig·​no·​rant ˈig-nə-rənt How to pronounce ignorant (audio)
: having no knowledge or education
: having no knowledge or understanding of a certain thing
ignorant of mathematics
: not informed : unaware
ignorant of the facts
: resulting from or showing lack of knowledge
an ignorant mistake
ignorantly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on ignorant

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