il·​lit·​er·​a·​cy | \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-t(ə-)rə-sē How to pronounce illiteracy (audio) \
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

Her illiteracy was a source of shame for my father, who kept the secret from me for four decades. Héctor Tobar, The New Yorker, "The Assassin Next Door," 22 July 2019 His parents did not want Randy stigmatized by an apparent but undiagnosed learning disability, but the result was that their son navigated through school hiding his illiteracy. Howard Blume,, "A.J. Duffy, a combative, colorful leader of L.A. teachers union, dies at 75," 11 July 2019 But its irony doesn’t resonate — certainly not for kids in the Black Lives Matter audience whose cultural illiteracy impairs their sense of history and selfhood. Armond White, National Review, "Ma’s Black-Mammy Stereotypes Capture the Illiberal Spirit," 7 June 2019 By 1981, the illiteracy rate had dropped from over 50 percent to under 15 percent. Jeffrey L. Gould, The New Republic, "Making Sense of Bernie’s Sandinista Sympathies," 6 June 2019 Poverty and widespread illiteracy limited the development of popular magazines. William Meyers, WSJ, "‘NeoRealismo: The New Image in Italy, 1932-1960’ Review: A Lens on the Real Italy," 26 Sep. 2018 Scroll through the charts, articles and data sets, and you will be stunned by how much better life has become in just the last few decades: Child mortality, illiteracy and deaths from violence have all plummeted, and life expectancy has gone up. Greg Ip, WSJ, "The World Is Getting Quietly, Relentlessly Better," 2 Jan. 2019 As the mother spoke, rabbits and chickens roamed about the cement floor of the family's rundown home in the town of Oulad Ayad in the Atlas Mountains of central Morocco, a rural region rife with poverty and high rates of illiteracy and unemployment. Fox News, "Harrowing account of tortured teen sparks outcry in Morocco," 30 Aug. 2018 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

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

30 Jul 2019

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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 How to pronounce illiteracy (audio) \

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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marked by turns or indirection

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