il·​lit·​er·​a·​cy | \(ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-t(ə-)rə-sē \
plural illiteracies

Definition of illiteracy 

1 : the quality or state of being illiterate especially : inability to read or write

2 : a mistake or crudity (as in speaking) typical of one who is illiterate

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Synonyms & Antonyms for illiteracy




learning, literacy

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Examples of illiteracy in a Sentence

the government's efforts to reduce illiteracy His letters contain many misspellings and illiteracies.

Recent Examples on the Web

India's mica belt is among the poorest regions in the country and has high rates of illiteracy and unemployment. Jocelyn C. Zuckerman, Marie Claire, "Is Your Makeup the Result of Child Labor?," 16 Oct. 2018 On the other side, Sanders obtains a reputation for economic illiteracy in virtue of taking hits from Democrats’ more vocal wonk community. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The controversy over Bernie Sanders’s proposed Stop BEZOS Act, explained," 11 Sep. 2018 Functional illiteracy among minority youth may run as high as 40 percent. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "‘A Nation at Risk’ demanded education reform 35 years ago. Here’s how it’s been bungled ever since.," 26 Apr. 2018 Her son Neil’s dyslexia led to her interest in fighting illiteracy. Enid Nemy, New York Times, "Barbara Bush, Wife of 41st President and Mother of 43rd, Dies at 92," 17 Apr. 2018 Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest illiteracy rates among women, but there are also an increasing number of women like Musazai pursuing higher education despite security threats and social restrictions. Sharif Hassan, Washington Post, "‘Afghanistan’s Malala’: College student shot by Taliban in 2016 graduates with honors," 10 June 2018 There are those who are grappling with overpowering problems of illiteracy and ill health and who are ill-equipped to hold free elections. Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, "‘Awe-inspiring’: Listen to Sen. John F. Kennedy read the Declaration of Independence," 4 July 2018 Also slowing down business growth is the high rate of illiteracy among women involved in the project, Ms. Abikar said. Zoe Tabary, The Christian Science Monitor, "A new use for ATMs in Kenya: camel milk dispenser," 3 July 2018 Humanity has made great strides in reducing social issues like poverty and illiteracy, but as these problems become less common, previously minor issues start to seem much more problematic. Matt Warren, Science | AAAS, "Are these dots purple or blue? Your answer might not be as reliable as you think," 28 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of illiteracy

1660, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for illiteracy

Last Updated

19 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for illiteracy

The first known use of illiteracy was in 1660

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More Definitions for illiteracy



English Language Learners Definition of illiteracy

: the state of not knowing how to read or write

: the state of not having knowledge about a particular subject

: a mistake that is made in the use of language : an illiterate statement or expression


il·​lit·​er·​a·​cy | \i-ˈli-tə-rə-sē \

Kids Definition of illiteracy

: the state or condition of being unable to read or write

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Comments on illiteracy

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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