1 of 2


im·​per·​fect (ˌ)im-ˈpər-fikt How to pronounce imperfect (audio)
: not perfect: such as
: flawed in form, structure, or function : defective, deficient
an imperfect world
an imperfect system
conclusions based on imperfect data
of a flower : having stamens or pistils but not both
: lacking or not involving sexual reproduction
the imperfect stage of a fungus
: of, relating to, or constituting a verb tense used to designate a continuing state or an incomplete action especially in the past
The Spanish word bailábamos ("we were dancing, we used to dance") is in the imperfect tense.
: not enforceable by law : enforceable only under certain conditions
That obligation would be a constitutional duty and a political obligation, but not a legally enforceable one. In legal terms, it would be described as a "duty of imperfect obligation."Anne Twomey
imperfectly adverb
imperfectness noun


2 of 2


plural imperfects
: something that is flawed or imperfect
Much of what the company sells are "imperfects," or produce that's too small, too big or oddly shaped but perfectly good to eat.Gloria Dawson
: an imperfect (see imperfect entry 1 sense 2) tense
a verb in the imperfect
also : the verb form expressing it
Imperfects are used to indicate ongoing or repeated past action.

Examples of imperfect in a Sentence

Adjective It's an imperfect solution to a difficult problem. He had an imperfect understanding of the task. In “He was singing when I came in,” “was singing” is in the imperfect tense.
Recent Examples on the Web
To me the beautiful thing is that imperfect perfect. Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 21 Nov. 2023 Considered an expression of wabi-sabi, or imperfect beauty, kokedama evolved from a bonsai technique used with plants whose roots have grown into the shape of their pots. Jenny Comita, New York Times, 21 Nov. 2023 Like imperfect tapestries, some held the remains of different people. Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2023 This is admittedly an imperfect exercise in Virginia, where absentee ballots were not allocated by precinct until very recently, which meant that presidential results by legislative district were only an estimate. Nathaniel Rakich, ABC News, 16 Nov. 2023 Trending That’s also a Hunger Games staple, of course, and this imperfect yet surprising prequel knows that even those who haven’t read the book(s) will want that itch scratched. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 16 Nov. 2023 Given how real clocks are never perfect, the researchers explored the impact that imperfect timing would have on quantum computers. IEEE Spectrum, 13 Nov. 2023 Brush on random, imperfect strokes of crafts glue with a foam brush. Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 Nov. 2023 Microsoft's long-running Forza franchise actually has its origin in a neural net experiment, and more recently, its developers used each human player to train an AI agent that would populate their friends' games, albeit with imperfect results. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 1 Nov. 2023
But in 2002, a single study, its design imperfect, found links between hormone therapy and elevated health risks for women of all ages. Susan Dominus, New York Times, 1 Feb. 2023 But that’s an imperfect means of protection, shown to miss anywhere from 30% to 70% of people who are in the early stages of an infection. Melissa Healystaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 3 Jan. 2023 Its endless affection for Jimmy is touching on one hand, propping him up as an imperfect soul who’s nevertheless worthy of Paul’s guidance, Sean’s trust and Alice’s love. Angie Han, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Jan. 2023 But putting a threatening bed of piano music under various winners as a way to signal whose time was less valuable seemed like an imperfect option: In this case, no overlong speaker was dithering, wasting time, or listing names. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 10 Jan. 2023 The portraits of his mother and grandmother — two imperfect but loving, spirited women — are particularly vivid and appreciative. Nancy Lord, Anchorage Daily News, 10 Dec. 2022 The current study, in contrast, does not factor in any additional greenhouse gas emissions or specify when the melting would take place, making the comparison with the U.N. report imperfect. Chris Mooney, Washington Post, 29 Aug. 2022 This is a loving and unflinching portrait of a search for community, imperfect but constant. Lauren Leblanc,, 18 Aug. 2022 Such contradictions, Kumashiro said, reflect how Asian Americans are navigating an imperfect system. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, 3 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'imperfect.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



alteration of Middle English imparfit, from Latin imperfectus, from in- + perfectus perfect

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1569, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of imperfect was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near imperfect

Cite this Entry

“Imperfect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
im·​per·​fect (ˈ)im-ˈpər-fikt How to pronounce imperfect (audio)
: not perfect:
: defective
imperfect clothing
: having stamens or pistils but not being a flower with both
: of, relating to, or being a verb tense used to express a continuing state or an incomplete action especially in the past
imperfectly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: the imperfect tense of a verb or a verb in this tense

Legal Definition


: not perfect or complete: as
: not enforceable : enforceable only under certain conditions
an imperfect obligation
: lacking an element otherwise required by law compare perfect

More from Merriam-Webster on imperfect

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!