Definition of illiterate
- an illiterate population
- an illiterate magazine
- musically illiterate
She didn't want anyone to know that she was illiterate.
She is politically illiterate and has never voted in an election.
He's illiterate when it comes to computers.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illiterate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Illiterate may be used in both specific and general senses. When used specifically, it refers to the inability to read or write. In a more general sense, illiterate may signify a lack of familiarity with some body of knowledge (as in being "musically illiterate") or indicate a lack of competence in or familiarity with literature.
Illiteracy may be contrasted with aliteracy, which is “the quality or state of being able to read but uninterested in doing so.” And in case you were wondering, a person who is unable to understand or perform basic mathematics, as opposed to reading, is innumerate.
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
: not knowing how to read or write
: having or showing a lack of knowledge about a particular subject
: not grammatically correct
What made you want to look up illiterate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
without deliberation, pause, or delay
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