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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Prepper Camp was a castle built on emotion: fear of the inchoate other was so great that the survivalists felt justified in being prepared to kill other humans to protect their material goods. Lauren Groff, Harper's magazine, "Waiting for the End of the World," 1 Mar. 2020 Prepper Camp was a castle built on emotion: fear of the inchoate other was so great that the survivalists felt justified in being prepared to kill other humans to protect their material goods. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "Apocalypse Now? Now? How About Now?," 27 Feb. 2020 Making a narrative out of the inchoate past inevitably entails selection—and perhaps some level of deception. Sarah Resnick, The New Yorker, "The Tragedy of Celebrity in Anne Enright’s “Actress”," 9 Mar. 2020 Now, throughout China, fear is mixing with inchoate rage. Charlie Campbell, Time, "The Coronavirus Outbreak Could Derail Xi Jinping’s Dreams of a Chinese Century," 6 Feb. 2020 The aim is to use the sound as a meditational object, an attentional foothold secure enough to let the to-do lists, inchoate longings and general mental detritus fall away. The Economist, "Hippie Inc: how the counterculture went corporate," 29 Nov. 2019 But these inchoate understandings of social belonging soon began to erode under the corrosive pressures of modern industrial life. Astra Taylor, The New Republic, "One for All," 26 Aug. 2019 The language has this rawness like the inchoate thoughts of a ninth-grader. Amy Sutherland,, "Nell Zink on German authors, selective shelving, and sailing through ‘Byzantium’," 15 Aug. 2019 Her gift was to represent inchoate and hard-to-grasp feelings in ways that seem direct and unfiltered. David Salle, The New York Review of Books, "David Salle," 9 May 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inchoate

Time Traveler for inchoate

Time Traveler

The first known use of inchoate was in 1534

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about inchoate

Statistics for inchoate

Last Updated

3 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inchoate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Apr. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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


How to pronounce inchoate (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inchoate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inchoate

Comments on inchoate

What made you want to look up inchoate? 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

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!