lit·​er·​ate | \ˈli-tə-rət also ˈli-trət \

Definition of literate 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : educated, cultured literate executives

b : able to read and write What percentage of the population is literate?

2a : versed in literature or creative writing : literary literate novelists

b : lucid, polished a literate essay

c : having knowledge or competence (see competent sense 2) computer-literate politically literate



Definition of literate (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an educated person

2 : a person who can read and write

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Other Words from literate


literately adverb
literateness noun

Examples of literate in a Sentence


She is literate in both English and Spanish. What percentage of the population is literate? The job requires you to be computer literate.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The mason's marks carved into the quarry-stone lintels are stick figures and feather arrows, suggesting a pre-literate group of stone workers. Mark Stevenson, Fox News, "Experts restore what might be oldest house in Mexico," 12 Sep. 2018 How could a show capture the deeply literate, intangible emotion of Ferrante's words onscreen? Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The First Trailer for 'My Brilliant Friend' Will Make You Want to Re-Read the Book," 30 Aug. 2018 Jamalon’s target population is increasingly literate and growing. Miriam Berger, Vox, "Why innovative tech startups are thriving across the Middle East," 1 Oct. 2018 His father, a barely literate stone mason, and mother, a cleaning lady, were devout Roman Catholics. Josh Jacobs, WSJ, "Chef Joël Robuchon Found Exacting Ways to Prepare Simple French Food," 10 Aug. 2018 Others see it as an appropriately scornful term for a woman who was barely literate, left little for other women to emulate and led the bankrupt Qing dynasty to its downfall in a country whose government remains as male-dominated as ever. New York Times, "Was This Powerful Chinese Empress a Feminist Trailblazer?," 10 July 2018 His life is an unambiguous open book for a minimally literate person to be able to read — mostly with disgust, contempt and incredulity. Jamshed Dastur,, "This is not who we are as Americans. Or is it?," 5 July 2018 Crowds by the hundreds flock to each ISC lawn performance at Griffith Park’s Old Zoo site to delight in freewheeling antics, charming improv and engaging musical interludes combined with a rigorously literate handling of the text. Philip Brandes,, "The 99 Seat Beat: 'Big Fish' at the Chance in Anaheim, free Shakespeare in Griffith Park," 6 July 2018 Not all farmers are as scientifically literate as Lester or Sayer; many shrug off climate change as just another shift in the weather. Nathanael Johnson, WIRED, "Are Avocados Toast?," 24 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The sad proof: Seventy percent of blind Americans are unemployed — but of those who do work, 85% are Braille-literate, according to the NFB. Peg Rosen, Good Housekeeping, "Blindness Can't Stop Me from Living the Life I Want to Live," 14 Sep. 2018 Lin said this is a good thing because not everyone with pending immigration cases is computer literate. Kate Morrissey,, "San Diego immigration court to pilot electronic filing system," 9 July 2018 For those in the continent from oral-based, spoken language (non-literate) communities with little formal education, these platforms can be inaccessible. Chris Giles, CNN, "Why Mali has its own homegrown version of Facebook," 9 Apr. 2018 Because the vast expansion of state Medicaid and other entitlements has trapped more people into thinking that a low-grade life without work is good enough. Because public schools leave the young semi-numerate and semi-literate. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "Trump’s Irrelevant Tariffs," 4 Apr. 2018 The dialogue — literate without feeling overwritten — begins with an exchange of compliments that devolves into gentle jokes, then mean-spirited ones and finally outright arguments. Alan Zilberman,, "'The Party' review: Sex, lies and politics before the first course," 22 Feb. 2018 Now, North Korea’s computer literate are allegedly masterminding attacks around the globe, such as the hack on Sony Pictures in 2014 that crashed the bulk of the company’s servers and cost it tens of millions of dollars. Bruce Harrison, NBC News, "How North Korea recruits its army of young hackers," 8 Dec. 2017 In last year’s election, nearly 63 million Americans supported a presidential candidate who was proudly post-literate. Jeet Heer, New Republic, "The Post-Literate American Presidency," 23 Sep. 2017 Last year, Indian banks launched a mobile payment system that after a simple sign-up process allows the less-tech-literate to make payments and transfer money from their accounts with their phones. Eric Bellman, WSJ, "The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice," 7 Aug. 2017

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1540, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for literate


Middle English literat, from Latin litteratus marked with letters, literate, from litterae letters, literature, from plural of littera


see literate entry 1

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Statistics for literate

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for literate

The first known use of literate was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for literate



English Language Learners Definition of literate

: able to read and write

: having or showing knowledge about a particular subject


lit·​er·​ate | \ˈli-tə-rət \

Kids Definition of literate

1 : able to read and write

2 : having gotten a good education

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More from Merriam-Webster on literate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for literate

Spanish Central: Translation of literate

Nglish: Translation of literate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of literate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on literate

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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