in·​ad·​ver·​tent | \ ˌi-nəd-ˈvər-tᵊnt How to pronounce inadvertent (audio) \

Definition of inadvertent

1 : unintentional an inadvertent omission
2 : not focusing the mind on a matter : inattentive

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Other Words from inadvertent

inadvertently adverb

The Formation of Inadvertent

It may look innocent, but inadvertent belongs to a class of words that provoke anger in many people who care about language – to wit, the back-formation. Bucking the usual trend in which longer words are formed from shorter ones by the addition of an affix (for example, superficiality from superficial), back-formations are created by clipping off a piece of a longer word; in this case, inadvertent was back-formed from inadvertence or inadvertency. A fair number of these words populate English, including brainwash (from brainwashing), complicit (from complicity), escalate (from escalator), and televise (from television). Certain back-formations, such as liaise (which comes from liaison) rub some people the wrong way. While they are under no obligation to accept liaise, there is nothing inherently wrong with back-formations; they are just another way our language has of creating new words.

Examples of inadvertent in a Sentence

an inadvertent encounter with a rattlesnake in the brush
Recent Examples on the Web Crampton Brophy made the inadvertent disclosure to a cellmate, Overstreet said, arguing to bring the new witness in to testify after the defense presents its case. oregonlive, 7 May 2022 Biden agreed to grant Abramovich a reprieve after a Zelensky request that seemed almost inadvertent, officials said. Washington Post, 5 May 2022 But the exhibition has now been recontextualized both to show that Guston was not an inadvertent racist and to provide a didactic cushion for those who might be offended or seriously discomfited by Guston’s late-career imagery of Ku Klux Klansmen. Peter Plagens, WSJ, 30 Apr. 2022 Caruso took an inadvertent blow to the face from Milwaukee Bucks guard Jevon Carter in the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 loss. Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune, 25 Apr. 2022 In China today, that inadvertent exposure, call from police, and involuntary quarantine could come at any time. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Apr. 2022 Some can survive airplane crashes, but probably not inadvertent strikes from missiles or artillery. Adriana Petryna, The Atlantic, 2 Mar. 2022 Agency documents say the inadvertent braking can occur without warning and randomly. cleveland, 24 Feb. 2022 Agency documents say the inadvertent braking can occur without warning and randomly. Tom Krisher, USA TODAY, 24 Feb. 2022 See More

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

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for inadvertent

back-formation from inadvertence

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Time Traveler for inadvertent

Time Traveler

The first known use of inadvertent was in 1653

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Inadvertent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for inadvertent


in·​ad·​ver·​tent | \ ˌi-nəd-ˈvər-tᵊnt How to pronounce inadvertent (audio) \

Kids Definition of inadvertent

: not intended or deliberate : accidental an inadvertent mistake

Other Words from inadvertent

inadvertently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on inadvertent

Nglish: Translation of inadvertent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inadvertent for Arabic Speakers


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