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

But the front end is light enough that even kids could drag it around to escape inadvertent wrong turns. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "The Great Big Youth ATV Test," 25 Mar. 2019 The dryer made it into an Instagram Lady Gaga posted of herself before her performance at the 2017 Super Bowl, though that seems to have been an organic and inadvertent shoutout to the dryer. Cheryl Wischhover, Vox, "Dyson’s new $500 golden hair dryer, explained," 29 Aug. 2018 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued that the inadvertent disclosure by prosecutors about charges against Assange obliterates the need for secrecy. Matthew Barakat, The Seattle Times, "Judge defers action on request to unseal Assange charges," 27 Nov. 2018 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

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

29 Mar 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

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


a strong desire or propensity

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