illiterate

adjective
il·​lit·​er·​ate | \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈli-t(ə-)rət How to pronounce illiterate (audio) \

Definition of illiterate

1 : having little or no education especially : unable to read or write an illiterate population
2a : showing or marked by a lack of familiarity with language and literature an illiterate magazine
b : violating approved patterns of speaking or writing
3 : showing or marked by a lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge musically illiterate

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Other Words from illiterate

illiterate noun
illiterately adverb
illiterateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illiterate

Synonyms

ungrammatical

Antonyms

grammatical

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Choose the Right Synonym for illiterate

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

Illiterate, Aliterate, and Innumerate

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.

Examples of illiterate in a Sentence

Constantine is listed in the 1870 census as illiterate; 10 years later, he had learned to read and write. And when, in 1906, the local "colored school" was slated for destruction, Constantine arranged to save it by having it moved to this property. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Wall Street Journal, 1 Feb. 2006 Martin is not illiterate but I think close to it. I never saw him read a newspaper, for instance. — Hayden Carruth, Reluctantly, 1998 In a time when nearly everyone was illiterate, before newspapers, radio, and television, how could the religious and iconographic detail of these apparitions have been so similar? — Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

One of his roles was to meet with illiterate inmates in rural Afghan prisons and write letters for them to their families. Laura Dean, The New Yorker, "The Threat of War Brings New Fears to an American Hostage in Iran," 24 June 2019 On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous takes the form of a letter that a young boy named Little Dog writes to his illiterate mother. Kat Chow, The Atlantic, "Going Home With Ocean Vuong," 4 June 2019 Little Dog serves as a translator to his mother, who is illiterate. Maris Kreizman, WSJ, "Ocean Vuong: America “Has Amnesia” About Tiger Woods," 4 June 2019 Men confused the distinction between woman and animal, not only through rape, but by keeping women illiterate, pregnant, and exhausted, tasked with the menial labor of keeping the colony fed and clean and clothed. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Miriam Toews’s Quiet Revolution," 26 June 2019 Award-winning poet Vuong tells their story in the form of a letter from the youngest, now a man in his twenties, to his illiterate mother. Jim Kiest, ExpressNews.com, "12 new books for your summer reading list," 5 June 2019 The book is presented as a loving letter to his illiterate mother. Lakshmi Gandhi, NBC News, "In debut novel, Ocean Vuong pens love letter to his mom and working-class Asian Americans," 4 June 2019 Southerners are far from stupid, illiterate, or backwards. Alicia Garza, Marie Claire, "Can We Have a Conversation About Abortion Bans and the South?," 29 May 2019 Religious superstition and a malleable view of Christianity (which mostly just enabled a continuing terror of any outsiders) reigned, despite the fact that the lower classes of priests were also illiterate, and therefore could not read the Bible. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Notre Dame Is a Cruel Metaphor for Our World Right Now," 25 Apr. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of illiterate

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for illiterate

Middle English, from Latin illiteratus, from in- + litteratus literate

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Dictionary Entries near illiterate

illiquid

illite

illiteracy

illiterate

ill-judged

ill-judging

ill-kempt

Statistics for illiterate

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for illiterate

The first known use of illiterate was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for illiterate

illiterate

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of illiterate

: not knowing how to read or write
: having or showing a lack of knowledge about a particular subject
: not grammatically correct

illiterate

adjective
il·​lit·​er·​ate | \ i-ˈli-tə-rət How to pronounce illiterate (audio) \

Kids Definition of illiterate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: unable to read or write

illiterate

noun

Kids Definition of illiterate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is unable to read or write

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Comments on illiterate

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