im·​per·​fect | \ (ˌ)im-ˈpər-fikt How to pronounce imperfect (audio) \

Definition of imperfect

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not perfect: such as
b of a flower : having stamens or pistils but not both
c : lacking or not involving sexual reproduction the imperfect stage of a fungus
2 : of, relating to, or constituting a verb tense used to designate a continuing state or an incomplete action especially in the past
3 : not enforceable at law



Definition of imperfect (Entry 2 of 2)

: an imperfect tense also : the verb form expressing it

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Other Words from imperfect


imperfectly \ (ˌ)im-​ˈpər-​fik(t)-​lē How to pronounce imperfect (audio) \ adverb
imperfectness \ (ˌ)im-​ˈpər-​fik(t)-​nəs How to pronounce imperfect (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for imperfect

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Yet visions of a nation of autonomous strivers always coexisted with older ideals of community and solidarity—and those ideals resurfaced in the Great Depression to become the basis, however limited and imperfect, of midcentury social democracy. Jackson Lears, The New York Review of Books, "Orthodoxy of the Elites," 5 Jan. 2021 The humanistic tale of a man and a woman who are imperfect for each other but still wish to be together comes before any historical or political statement. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Sylvie’s Love’: A Black romantic drama for the ages," 23 Dec. 2020 One side was a despotic empire that suppressed the most basic human needs and desires; the other was a collection of democracies that, however corrupt and imperfect, sought to enhance human freedom. Washington Post, "John le Carré didn’t just invent the characters in the foreground of the spy world. He designed the entire set.," 14 Dec. 2020 There will likely be many frustrating and imperfect things about the vaccine rollout in the next few months. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, "America Is About to Enter Vaccine Purgatory," 11 Dec. 2020 These solutions are limited and imperfect, but that’s all right. Mark Satta, The Conversation, "3 reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it," 18 Nov. 2020 The early vote totals, reported by state and local election officials and tracked by the AP, are an imperfect indicator of which party may be leading. Arkansas Online, "Early vote total exceeds 2016; GOP chips at Dems' advantage," 26 Oct. 2020 The early vote totals, reported by state and local election officials and tracked by the AP, are an imperfect indicator of which party may be leading. Star Tribune, "Early vote total exceeds 2016; GOP chips at Dems' advantage," 25 Oct. 2020 Keynesian economist who believes markets are imperfect and sometimes need government intervention. News Services Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "Biden assembles his team," 28 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the people who delivered groceries, who sewed masks, who have long cursed America’s imperfect systems and long fought to change them, who still donate $10 to a sick teacher’s GoFundMe. Washington Post, "This terrible year taught me something about hope," 31 Dec. 2020 Art books call it wabi-sabi: finding beauty in the imperfect. Kevin Fisher-paulson,, "Fisher-Paulson: 2020 caps off with a cancer scare and a valuable lesson," 22 Dec. 2020 The existing database documenting officer misconduct, the National Decertification Index, is an imperfect system. Majlie De Puy Kamp, CNN, "The year of reckoning: How 2020 revealed the fault lines in American policing," 18 Dec. 2020 In his recounting of the characters and science involved in Ardi’s discovery and the controversies that followed it, Pattison reveals the imperfect, all-too-human nature of science itself. Stephanie Hanes, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘Fossil Men’ explores breakthrough science – and human nature," 8 Dec. 2020 Even the simple fact of this vaccine’s existence, some analysts have argued, might jeopardize the testing and success of potentially better vaccines down the line, a case of the imperfect being the enemy of the good. Adam Rogers, Wired, "We’ll Need More Than One Vaccine to Beat the Pandemic," 13 Nov. 2020 Pickaway, where officials acknowledged that efforts to control viral spread were hectic and hindered by imperfect testing, exemplifies the broad challenges facing the nation’s jail and prison systems in the grip of the pandemic. Washington Post, "Prisons and jails have become a ‘public health threat’ during the pandemic, advocates say," 11 Nov. 2020 By every practical and idealistic standard, America — though imperfect in many ways — is the least bigoted place in the world. David Harsanyi, National Review, "A New York Times Columnist Wish-Casts Foreign Intervention into U.S. Elections," 8 Oct. 2020 Dream big but don’t lose the ability to enjoy imperfect pleasures. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Nov. 7, 2020: Libra, understand motivations; Capricorn, accept honest appraisals," 7 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imperfect.' 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 imperfect


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1569, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for imperfect


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

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Time Traveler for imperfect

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for imperfect

Last Updated

17 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imperfect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for imperfect


How to pronounce imperfect (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of imperfect

: having mistakes or problems : not perfect
grammar : of or relating to a verb tense used to express an incomplete action in the past or a state that continued for a period of time in the past


im·​per·​fect | \ im-ˈpər-fikt How to pronounce imperfect (audio) \

Kids Definition of imperfect

: having a fault of some kind : not perfect

Other Words from imperfect

imperfectly adverb



Legal Definition of imperfect

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

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Comments on imperfect

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