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 Only a tanner believes her denials of witchcraft and stands by her, by serving as scribe for this illiterate peasant woman. Dan Cryer, Star Tribune, 4 June 2021 Despite the couple being illiterate and the message being in English, the couple did not stand a chance of succeeding in their defense against the dangerous blasphemy provisions and a failed legal system. Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab, Forbes, 26 May 2021 With the exception of the societal elite, most individuals were illiterate. Lina Zeldovich, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 May 2021 His grandmother was illiterate and his formal education ended after the fifth grade. Kevin Armstrong, New York Times, 22 May 2021 At its center was a young charming illiterate kleptomaniac — a hero for the times — Steve Jones, who became in his own words, the 94th greatest guitarist of all time. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 25 Apr. 2021 That left him and a younger sister in the care of his maternal grandmother, an illiterate peasant who put a high priority on education and enriched his mind with fables and proverbs. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2021 Girls are more likely than boys not to attend school, resulting in many women being illiterate. Mona Andrews, Forbes, 12 Apr. 2021 But, Willis says, the service of these doctors has often been left out of the Civil War story, especially amid misconceptions that all Black Americans were illiterate in the 19th century. Time, 12 Apr. 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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Statistics for illiterate

Last Updated

9 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illiterate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illiterate. Accessed 16 Jun. 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

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