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

Adjective 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 fact that 99% of Americans are now literate would have shocked Americans a hundred years ago. Jennifer Wright,, "America Has Always Been A Nation Of Conspiracy Theories — But It’s Worse Than Ever," 29 June 2020 With an increasingly literate society in England and widespread books and newspapers, for the first time the majority of Britons become aware of the barbarous practices taking place in the middle of the Atlantic, Walvin says. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "The insurance case that helped end the slave trade," 19 June 2020 Each affirmed not only the Gothic attack but an iron rule of history: never murder a people more literate than you. The Economist, "Goths v Romans A brilliant Goth’s-eye view of the sack of Rome," 20 June 2020 In the early 1900s, the company starting using an image of Frank L. White, a Chicago chef, to play Rastus, who was depicted as a barely literate former slave in early advertisements. cleveland, "Cream of Wheat is considering changing its packaging, too," 18 June 2020 Even in literate societies, poorer and marginalized segments were rarely written about. Charlotte Roberts, The Conversation, "What the archaeological record reveals about epidemics throughout history – and the human response to them," 15 June 2020 This voluntary workforce of over 3.5 million poorly paid, semi-literate women are India’s first line of defense against the coronavirus, relied upon by a government that praises them but has done little to protect, support, or compensate them. Nilanjana Bhowmick, National Geographic, "Millions of women volunteers form India's frontline COVID response," 1 June 2020 The 1953 census found that 88.4% of people living in Cuba's cities were literate, but only 58.2% of people living in rural areas could read and write. Alan Gomez, USA TODAY, "Cubans who lived through Castro's literacy program frustrated by Bernie Sanders' praise," 13 Mar. 2020 Aided by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's literate adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel, and the near flawless ensemble acting, Howards End is 140 minutes of cinematic bliss. Jeff Menell, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Howards End': THR's 1992 Review," 27 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun New York's Dave Gettleman, who famously is not very computer-literate, appears to be planning to operate with just a single small laptop and a massive binder. Nick Schwartz, USA TODAY, "The NFL's first-ever virtual draft is going to be a chaotic mess," 22 Apr. 2020 And adapt it for younger kids, perhaps adding emoji-like icons for the pre-literate. David G. Allan, CNN, "The beauty of a family schedule -- and how to stick to it during coronavirus," 19 Mar. 2020 The program makes sure to emphasize that students leave the program bilingual, bi-literate, and with a strong sense of biculturalism, which Herod believes is key to a student’s total immersion in the program. Ryan Nickerson, Houston Chronicle, "Herod Elementary celebrates 25 years of dual language," 14 Feb. 2020 Kalder’s point is the disquieting one that the worst tyrants of the past century were hardly the brutal less-than-literates of our imagination. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "The Field Guide to Tyranny," 16 Dec. 2019 In the Washington Heights study, 35 percent of the illiterate group (82 of 238) had dementia when the study began, as against 18 percent (137 of 743) of literate participants. Gary Stix, Scientific American, "Literacy Might Shield the Brain from Dementia," 13 Nov. 2019 For each app in the competition, XPRIZE tested a group of low-literate, or functionally illiterate, adults at the start and end of a 1-year period of that group using the app. Jordan Wilkerson, Dallas News, "SMU gaming app aims to teach millions of U.S. adults who can't read," 1 Aug. 2019 This being the Washington area — full of literate, globe-trotting, policy types — the Current Affairs, Travel and Military History categories are popular. John Kelly, Washington Post, "This McLean used book sale turns 50 this year. It features very D.C. titles.," 11 Sep. 2019 Nothing like signifyin’ in the Henry Louis Gates Jr. sense, with its necessarily intelligent playfulness, but something essentially post-literate and cheerless. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "A Herd Has No Mind," 11 July 2019

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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Time Traveler for literate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for literate

Last Updated

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Literate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for literate


How to pronounce literate (audio)

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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