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 The library board is appointed, not elected, and community members have staged protests and penned a petition criticizing their decision as being ignorant of the community's wishes to see Hayes as the next library leader. The Indianapolis Star, 5 Jan. 2023 The higher-ups can sometimes be ignorant of on-the-ground realities. Quartz, 7 Dec. 2022 Ulrich argued that her client was ignorant of U.S. electoral processes and did not understand what Congress was doing that day. Paul Duggan, Anchorage Daily News, 22 Nov. 2022 Ulrich argued that her client was ignorant of U.S. electoral processes and did not understand what Congress was doing that day. Paul Duggan, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2022 After the uprising in 2020 [following the death of George Floyd], no one can pretend to be ignorant of the past and keep their head in the clouds anymore. Hayley Maitland, Vogue, 1 Nov. 2022 Consumers are no longer ignorant on matters of sustainability and demand change. Forbes, 3 June 2022 The crime was a focal point of the premiere, yet Kemsley says her kids are still ignorant of what happened. Vulture, 12 May 2022 The incredulous, 22-year-old manchild has already been ripped to shreds by members of the community for his ignorant choices. Jasmin Barmore, Detroit Free Press, 3 Feb. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ignorant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 21 Mar. 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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