in·​cho·​ate | \ in-ˈkō-ət How to pronounce inchoate (audio) , ˈin-kə-ˌwāt\

Definition of inchoate

: being only partly in existence or operation : incipient especially : imperfectly formed or formulated : formless, incoherent misty, inchoate suspicions that all is not well with the nation — J. M. Perry

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Other Words from inchoate

inchoately adverb
inchoateness noun

When Should You Use inchoate?

Inchoate derives from inchoare, which means "to start work on" in Latin but translates literally as "to hitch up." Inchoare was formed from the prefix in- and the noun cohum, which refers to the part of a yoke to which the beam of a plow is fitted. The concept of implementing this initial step toward the larger task of plowing a field can help provide a clearer understanding of inchoate, an adjective used to describe the imperfect form of something (such as a plan or idea) in its early stages of development. Perhaps because it looks a little like the word chaos (although the two aren't closely related), inchoate now not only implies the formlessness that often marks beginnings but also the confusion caused by chaos.

Examples of inchoate in a Sentence

inchoate feelings of affection for a man whom she had, up till now, thought of as only a friend

Recent Examples on the Web

Weyerhauser would also have to scrap inchoate plans to develop the land. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Brave New Habitat," 30 Sep. 2018 Yet these inchoate demands have become so disconnected from the normal mechanisms of politics that no Congress, representing 535 elections, could possibly turn them into legislation. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "Kavanaugh and the Culture Wars," 11 July 2018 In 1970, Kingelez traveled 370 miles to Kinshasa (formerly Léopoldville), like any kid with inchoate ambition seeking a larger life. Roberta Smith, New York Times, "Fantastical Cityscapes of Cardboard and Glue at MoMA," 31 May 2018 President Donald Trump continues to fire off volleys in his inchoate trade war, throwing financial markets into turmoil and drawing retaliation. The Economist, "Could a trade war derail global growth?," 21 June 2018 Sitting under the relentless blue lights and crystalline shimmer in this new world under the sea, the sensation’s gone from disco to aquarium, surrounded by an inchoate tumble of pretty things. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, "Review: Reborn Rebelle now San Antonio’s finest seafood restaurant," 14 June 2018 The inchoate rage of the 2017 Women’s March has been channeled into thousands of activist cells across the country. Molly Ball, Time, "‘It’s a Sea Change’ for Democratic Women in the Primaries," 14 June 2018 The first is an inchoate sense that firms buying themselves is unnatural. The Economist, "Six muddles about share buy-backs," 31 May 2018 Muster the money troubles, the love troubles, the antic clowning, the bone-crushing despair, the inchoate longings for art or truth or just a trip to Moscow. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "‘The Seagull’ Brings Chekhov’s Doleful Comedy to Cinemas," 4 May 2018

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

1534, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for inchoate

Latin inchoatus, past participle of inchoare to start work on, perhaps from in- + cohum part of a yoke to which the beam of a plow is fitted

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Statistics for inchoate

Last Updated

23 May 2019

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Time Traveler for inchoate

The first known use of inchoate was in 1534

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More Definitions for inchoate



Financial Definition of inchoate

What It Is

Inchoate is a legal term indicating that a transaction or activity has been discussed or even agreed upon but is not final or is still incomplete.

How It Works

Let's say Company XYZ wants to buy Company ABC. The two companies agree to the price and other terms, and now it's a matter of time until the paperwork is completed, making the transaction final. During that time -- that is, after the companies agree but before the transaction is finalized -- the deal is inchoate.

Why It Matters

In the merger world, lots of time can pass between when a deal is announced and when it closes. During this time, the deals are inchoate and can often experience several bumps in the road as the companies do their due diligence on each other and implement the terms of the deal.

Real estate deals are also often inchoate and transactions can often fall apart before they reach the closing table.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of inchoate

formal : not completely formed or developed yet


in·​cho·​ate | \ in-ˈkō-ət, ˈiŋ-kō-ˌāt How to pronounce inchoate (audio) \

Legal Definition of inchoate

1a : not yet made complete, certain, or specific : not perfected — see also inchoate lien at lien
b : not yet transformed into actual use or possession until an employee has earned his retirement pay…[it] is but an inchoate rightPeterson v. Fire & Police Pension Ass'n, 759 P.2d 720 (1988)
2 : of or relating to a crime (as attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy) which consists of acts that are preliminary to another crime and that are in themselves criminal — compare choate

More from Merriam-Webster on inchoate

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inchoate

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