lit·​er·​ate | \ ˈli-tə-rət also ˈli-trət How to pronounce literate (audio) \

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

Digital extinction More people around the world are literate than ever before in our species’ history—and yet a mass extinction threatens the world’s languages. Caitlin Hu, Quartz, "Iceland is inventing a new vocabulary for a high-tech future," 2 June 2019 Over 90 percent of the population was comprised of peasants, and perhaps 5 percent of the total population was literate. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Notre Dame Is a Cruel Metaphor for Our World Right Now," 25 Apr. 2019 The funniest things in an environment like Twitter tend to toy with that, imitating either casual speech or post-literate weirdos who don’t understand punctuation. Nitsuh Abebe, New York Times, "New Sentences: From a Tweet by Seamas O’Reilly," 16 May 2018 Keeping that first point in mind, dear reader, tell me why absolutely any literate human under the sun would ever store books like so: What is this madness? Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "Please Stop Ruining Your Bookshelves with These Dumb Design Ideas," 12 Mar. 2019 This is also an unusually literate movie, one that cites Heisenberg’s own famous uncertainty principle the better to bring it to bear on the scenario itself. Robert Rodat, New York Times, "Review: ‘The Catcher Was a Spy’ Shares a Peculiar History Lesson," 21 June 2018 The folks who put together the Barnes & Noble display probably never considered that there are literate Americans who wish to expose their children to ideas outside the liberal orthodoxy. Dave Seminara, WSJ, "Reading From Left to Left at Barnes & Noble," 16 Dec. 2018 Belle is educated and literate, proudly defying social norms and her peers’ judgments. WSJ, "Spurn Not the Nobly Born With Love Affected," 26 Nov. 2018 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

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

Adjective and Noun

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

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Statistics for literate

Last Updated

24 Jun 2019

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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 How to pronounce literate (audio) \

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

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