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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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 Cave and his band, known for dark, unusually literate songs, will play in the arena’s intimate Theater of the Clouds set-up. oregonlive, "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will play Portland’s Moda Center in October," 18 Feb. 2020 Such theaters comprise a sizable market for U.S. and European indie filmmaking, thanks to Japan's impressively broad base of arthouse-literate moviegoers. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, "Japanese Filmmakers Launch Campaigns to Save Tokyo's Indie Cinemas," 17 Apr. 2020 The influx of consumer attention catalyzed increased scrutiny from privacy-literate users and security experts. Stan Horaczek, Popular Science, "Check these privacy and security settings before your next Zoom video chat," 2 Apr. 2020 In fact, proto-literate societies could conduct censuses of great complexity. Andrew Whitby, Wired, "A Brief History of the Census—and How Covid-19 Could Change It," 1 Apr. 2020 Peart was wildly literate, and his earnest love of science fiction informed Rush’s singular aesthetic. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "The Misfit Awesomeness of Neil Peart and Rush," 11 Jan. 2020 In addition to making sure Stritch students are literate in academic subjects like reading and math, the university also builds financial, digital and health skills into students' education, Rinehart said. Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ted and Mary Kellner give $2.5 million to Cardinal Stritch to support students and programs," 17 Dec. 2019 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about literate

Time Traveler for literate

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for literate

Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Literate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
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!