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

Definition of imperfect

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not perfect: such as
a : defective
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 But it was hailed as an elegant if imperfect solution that underscored the power of New Jersey’s attorney general, who oversees 750 lawyers, several hundred fewer than the S.E.C.’s enforcement division. New York Times, 23 July 2021 Instead of grocery stores throwing out overproduced or imperfect foods, Nardolillo said La Soupe rescues products to create nutrient-dense meals to give to those who suffer from food insecurity. Kaitlin Lewis, The Enquirer, 20 July 2021 But, again, that may be just because VR technology is new, unfamiliar and imperfect. Nicola Jones, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 June 2021 Still, our whizz-bang social media are at best imperfect and partial substitutes for in-the-flesh grooming. Arkansas Online, 6 June 2021 Before long, her small and imperfect steps had added up to substantial progress. Meimei Fox, Forbes, 29 May 2021 Of course this error was only identified subsequently when expectant scientists viewed its skewed and imperfect version of reality. WSJ, 23 May 2021 Criminal justice is inherently messy and imperfect. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2021 Only with a world-historical amount of good fortune, at a moment of perfect legislative convenience, could a strange and imperfect bill become law. Jake Bittle, The New Republic, 26 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The imperfect, uncertain first steps of accelerated approval are needed to walk the path to optimal treatment. Emil D. Kakkis, STAT, 7 July 2021 And that generation has embraced a different narrative, which sees us less as striving individuals with an imperfect but ever-improving society and more as a fixed hierarchy of groups, some of which are oppressive and some of which are oppressed. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 29 June 2021 Despite the obstacles of distance and imperfect technology, Saville-Kent managed to share that wonder with many who would never experience it firsthand. Michelle Nijhuis, The Atlantic, 16 June 2021 Biden’s diplomatic two-step —appeasing allies in Europe to bolster the alliance against Russia— reflects his deep belief that the inconvenient and challenging work of corralling allies into an imperfect union is far more powerful than going alone. Time, 15 June 2021 Then, the researchers looked at mutations within genes that were associated with a lower or higher body mass index (BMI), the most generally accepted, if imperfect, measure of obesity. Rodrigo Pérez Ortega, Science | AAAS, 1 July 2021 The debate is an important, if imperfect, chance to make another pitch. New York Times, 16 June 2021 The bedding, a combination of sweet, dainty florals and graphic, collected coverlets, is a nod to the imperfect working perfectly for Esler. Carisha Swanson, House Beautiful, 3 May 2021 But even that imperfection fits well with what Pause wants to be: an imperfect, challenging, uneven, and enthusiastic exploration of social shibboleths and cultural third rails. Kathryn Vanarendonk, Vulture, 17 June 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near imperfect



imperfect cadence

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Statistics for imperfect

Last Updated

28 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imperfect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for imperfect



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

More from Merriam-Webster on imperfect

Nglish: Translation of imperfect for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of imperfect for Arabic Speakers


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