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

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 Both the events of 1989 and the inadvertent U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, 10 years later, touched off serious ruptures that were eventually repaired., "Biden Championed Close China Ties and Then Xi Came Along," 11 May 2020 In principle, this is OK, but the danger is that any inadvertent analysis bias will be replicated rather than eliminated. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Fine structure constant may vary with space, constant in time," 28 Apr. 2020 But inadvertent or secondhand leaks happen all the time. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, "The Entire History of World of Warcraft," 23 Apr. 2020 Houston rapper Slim Thug, who was diagnosed with coronavirus on April 21, played a joke on Instagram and got some inadvertent news coverage out of it. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Slim Thug, who has coronavirus, says he was 'trolling' in video from his truck," 3 Apr. 2020 But Schlafly does land one inadvertent point in Mrs. America: How would its ratification change the daily lives of ordinary women? Inkoo Kang, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Mrs. America': TV Review," 2 Apr. 2020 As of Sunday morning, the Facebook post has 22,000 reactions and more than 29,000 shares, plus thousands of comments with one common sentiment – just how cool this inadvertent time capsule really is. Jane Morice |, cleveland, "Purse discovered at North Canton school offers glimpse into high school girl’s life in late 1950s, early ’60s," 16 Feb. 2020 Even inadvertent disclosure of the identity of an infected individual as a result of a detailed location tracking program could lead to social shaming, violence or worse, the person said. Brian Fung, CNN, "Trump administration wants to use Americans' location data to track the coronavirus," 18 Mar. 2020 The ball hit the rim, so it was deemed an inadvertent whistle. ... Tim Reynolds, Houston Chronicle, "NBA fines Mavericks owner $500,000, sends teams memo on proper conduct," 6 Mar. 2020

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 2

History and Etymology for inadvertent

back-formation from inadvertence

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inadvertent

Time Traveler for inadvertent

Time Traveler

The first known use of inadvertent was in 1653

See more words from the same year

Statistics for inadvertent

Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inadvertent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for inadvertent


How to pronounce inadvertent (audio)

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

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!