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

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 These and other historically literate observers contemplate a future in which democracy has been bested. James Stavridis, Time, "Democracy Isn't Perfect, But It Will Still Prevail," 12 July 2018 Loans and crop insurance have tended to flow to better-off, more literate farmers, leaving others at the mercy of moneylenders. The Economist, "India’s government claims to subsidise farmers, but actually hurts them," 12 July 2018 The literate dialogue of Thoroughbreds is delivered generally in a prim, flat style that recalls the films of Hal Hartley and Whit Stillman. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "Crime / Film Thoroughbreds is a handsomely understated drama about awful people," 20 Mar. 2018 Templar imitation is enduringly popular but seldom historically literate. Kristina Krug, Smithsonian, "Meet the Americans Following in the Footsteps of the Knights Templar," 28 June 2018 Compounding the problem, those who are less technologically literate — and thus less able to easily ask for help from Facebook — are also those most likely to fall victim to online scams, Levin said. Edward Mckinley, kansascity, "Facebook stonewalls Kansas scam victim when she reaches out for help," 12 June 2018 The Decemberists, the literate indie-rock band from Portland, Ore., have always had something in common with the Smiths. John Adamian,, "Decemberists Coming To College Street Music Hall," 2 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 The letters on hand may reflect the gulf between the educated and non-literate, Heidelbaugh adds, but there are some examples that suggest letters had been dictated to others. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian, "World War I Letters From Generals to Doughboys Voice the Sorrow of Fighting a War," 6 Apr. 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

14 Oct 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

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


to reject or criticize sharply

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