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
2 : showing or marked by a lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge musically illiterate
3a : violating approved patterns of speaking or writing
b : showing or marked by a lack of familiarity with language and literature an illiterate magazine

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Other Words from illiterate

illiterate noun
illiterately adverb
illiterateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illiterate

Synonyms

Antonyms

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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 There were elderly women, some illiterate, some hobbled. David Remnic, The New Yorker, 3 Aug. 2021 The Kyrgyz are one of Afghanistan’s smallest minorities, about 2,500 largely illiterate herders who eke out a living raising sheep, yaks, horses and camels on the high-altitude pastures near the Chinese border. New York Times, 29 July 2021 Catherine of Siena was an illiterate girl in the turmoil of the 14th century called by God to pray unceasingly and persuade the pope, then living in Avignon against church teaching, to return to Rome. Sarah Schutte, National Review, 25 July 2021 Is said to be semi-illiterate, receiving no formal education beyond third grade. Cnn Editorial Research, CNN, 23 July 2021 Some 750 million adults – two thirds of them women – remained illiterate in 2016. Cindy Gordon, Forbes, 27 June 2021 To identify itself and its program to the mostly illiterate population, the regime built a cult of personality around Chairman Mao as the sage leader propelling China toward self-reliance and prosperity. Andrew Nathan, WSJ, 25 June 2021 An illiterate maid, Félix had led a life of poverty, working the past few years for $240 per month. Terrence Mccoy, Washington Post, 25 June 2021 At one stop the worker can’t suppress laughter as the elderly, digitally illiterate customer laments the lack of decent programming on TV. BostonGlobe.com, 21 May 2021

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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Time Traveler for illiterate

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near illiterate

illiteracy

illiterate

ill-judged

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Last Updated

13 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illiterate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illiterate. Accessed 17 Sep. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on illiterate

Nglish: Translation of illiterate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of illiterate for Arabic Speakers

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