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

Definition of inadvertent

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

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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

There were small inadvertent indignities at the Fish Fry. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Waist-Deep in the ‘Big Muddle’," 24 June 2019 Throughout the rest of the film, the most consistent, if inadvertent, antagonist is Woody himself. Josh Spiegel, The Hollywood Reporter, "How 'Toy Story 4' Surprises With Its Villain," 22 June 2019 The takeaway Neuromonitoring during complex surgery involving the spine can help prevent inadvertent damage. Jon Hamilton, Dallas News, "Austin woman's spinal surgery brings back-breaking $94,000 bill a year later," 20 June 2019 In a bitter twist, the zebra has been one of the inadvertent architects of its own downfall as its droppings act as fertilizer and its grazing helps the seeds spread. Peter Schwartzstein, National Geographic, "An invasive, thorny tree is taking over Africa—can it be stopped?," 9 Apr. 2019 Smoot-Hawley worsened the Depression, led to the election of Franklin Roosevelt, and, more important, brought about an inadvertent shift in congressional–executive relations. Jay Cost, National Review, "Congress Should Fix Itself before Reclaiming Its Power," 14 June 2019 Either way, the Administration’s aggressive maneuvers and Iran’s responses have created an environment ripe for inadvertent conflict. John Walcott, Time, "Oil Tanker Attacks Put Trump's Iran Red Line to the Test," 14 June 2019 Under the new bill, business people fear they could be grabbed from Hong Kong by Chinese authorities for political reasons or inadvertent business offenses, undermining the city's semi-autonomous legal system. James Griffiths, CNN, "Does the extradition law really spell the death of Hong Kong? Some businesses say yes," 11 June 2019 Toronto Raptors backup point guard Fred VanVleet exited Friday’s Game 4 after taking an inadvertent shot to the face from Shaun Livingston’s left elbow. Rusty Simmons,, "Raptors guard Fred VanVleet exits Game 4 after inadvertent blow knocks out tooth," 7 June 2019

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 1

History and Etymology for inadvertent

back-formation from inadvertence

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Statistics for inadvertent

Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inadvertent

The first known use of inadvertent was in 1653

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More Definitions for inadvertent



English Language Learners Definition of inadvertent

: not intended or planned


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

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Comments on inadvertent

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