in·​ad·​ver·​tent | \ˌi-nəd-ˈvər-tᵊnt \

Definition of inadvertent 

1 : not focusing the mind on a matter : inattentive

2 : unintentional an inadvertent omission

Keep scrolling for more

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

Still, as inadvertent disclosures of personal information go, the one Amazon is revealing seems relatively limited. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Amazon customers’ names and email addresses disclosed by website error," 21 Nov. 2018 That inadvertent whistle on the stripped fumble cost the Jaguars the game. Peter King,, "NFL Replay Critics: Stop the Obsession, and the Unrealistic Expectations for Officials," 23 Jan. 2018 Some of this might have been inadvertent, in the same way that construction crews mindlessly obliterate ants. Seth Shostak /, NBC News, "If space aliens are out there, why haven't we found them?," 11 June 2018 But a tax-law goof put White Castle in a pickle, and the company is postponing some of those projects as the retail, restaurant and commercial-real-estate industries push Congress to correct an inadvertent omission. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "Four Words Missing in the New Tax Law Give Restaurants Heartburn," 10 July 2018 And Will Schmid, our inadvertent matchmaker, played and sang at the wedding in 1981, along with his wife, Ann, on autoharp. Jim Stingl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stingl: Educators spread the joy of music to many. And they accidentally led me to my wife," 6 July 2018 The incidents range from inadvertent damage to coral reefs to brazen pollution. San Francisco Chronicle, "federal laws didn’t prohibit discharges into the sanctuary," 2 June 2018 And the Ohio Department of Commerce, which is one of three state agencies regulating the MMCP, acknowledged that an inadvertent scoring error prevented one company, PharmaCann, from qualifying for a grower's license. Randy Tucker,, "Ohio's scoring process for medical weed growers faulted in Ernst & Young review," 7 June 2018 James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee are early, though perhaps inadvertent, examples. Daniel H. Pink, The Atlantic, "The Future of Television Is Being Able to Pick Shows by Length," 11 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of inadvertent

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for inadvertent

back-formation from inadvertence

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inadvertent

Share inadvertent

Statistics for inadvertent

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inadvertent

The first known use of inadvertent was in 1653

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for inadvertent



English Language Learners Definition of inadvertent

: not intended or planned


in·​ad·​ver·​tent | \ˌi-nəd-ˈvər-tᵊnt \

Kids Definition of inadvertent

: not intended or deliberate : accidental an inadvertent mistake

Other Words from inadvertent

inadvertently adverb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on inadvertent

What made you want to look up inadvertent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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