neg·​li·​gent ˈne-gli-jənt How to pronounce negligent (audio)
: marked by or given to neglect especially habitually or culpably
was a careless workman, negligent of detailsEdith Hamilton
: failing to exercise the care expected of a reasonably prudent person in like circumstances
negligent about traffic regulations
: marked by a carelessly easy manner
negligently adverb

Did you know?

To be negligent is to be neglectful. Negligence is an important legal concept; it's usually defined as the failure to use the care that a normally careful person would in a given situation. Negligence is a common claim in lawsuits regarding medical malpractice, auto accidents, and workplace injuries. But you can also be negligent about answering your email, or negligent in the way you dress. (The original garment called a negligee was worn by women who had neglected to get fully dressed.) The legal meanings of negligent and negligence, however, tend to be the ones we most often encounter nowadays.

Choose the Right Synonym for negligent

negligent, neglectful, lax, slack, remiss mean culpably careless or indicative of such carelessness.

negligent implies inattention to one's duty or business.

negligent about writing a note of thanks

neglectful adds a more disapproving implication of laziness or deliberate inattention.

a society callously neglectful of the poor

lax implies a blameworthy lack of strictness, severity, or precision.

a reporter lax about accurate quotation

slack implies want of due or necessary diligence or care.

slack workmanship

remiss implies blameworthy carelessness shown in slackness, forgetfulness, or neglect.

had been remiss in their familial duties

Examples of negligent in a Sentence

The fire was started by a negligent smoker. He was negligent in not reporting the accident to the police.
Recent Examples on the Web The trio worked on the tracks for months before finally working on the raging bridge, a big Nineties pop moment from Roan that predicts the regret her negligent partner will face one day. Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone, 5 Apr. 2024 The negligent storage charge, which is considered a gross misdemeanor, carries a maximum sentence of one year behind bars and/or a $3,000 fine, per the complaint. Emily Palmer, Peoplemag, 1 Apr. 2024 The lawsuit accuses Walgreens of negligent hiring, training, retention or supervision. Julia Marnin, Miami Herald, 28 Mar. 2024 Big Ligas alleged breach of contract while Londra filed his own suit accusing Salazar and Oviedo of fraud and negligent representation. Leila Cobo, Billboard, 25 Mar. 2024 Thacker is accused of excessive force and intentional battery, Gaddis is accused of false arrest and malicious prosecution and the city is accused of negligent supervision and training, among other counts, according to the lawsuit. Eric Levenson, CNN, 20 Mar. 2024 Penny has pleaded not guilty to the charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with Jordan Neely's death. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 20 Mar. 2024 Baldwin, 65, was indicted by a New Mexico grand jury in January 2024 for involuntary manslaughter (negligent use of a firearm) or alternatively, with involuntary manslaughter (without due caution or circumspection) in the death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Oct. 21, 2021. Daniel S. Levine, Peoplemag, 15 Mar. 2024 In Louisiana, negligent homicide has a maximum sentence of five years in jail and/or $5,000. Li Cohen, CBS News, 15 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'negligent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English necligent, negligent, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin neglegent-, neglegens (also neclegens, negligens), present participle of neglegere, neclegere "to disregard, do nothing about, fail to care for" — more at neglect entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of negligent was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near negligent

Cite this Entry

“Negligent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


neg·​li·​gent ˈneg-li-jənt How to pronounce negligent (audio)
: marked by or likely to show neglect
: failing to take proper or normal care
negligently adverb

Legal Definition


neg·​li·​gent ˈne-gli-jənt How to pronounce negligent (audio)
: marked by, given to, or produced by negligence
a negligent act
the defendant was negligent
negligently adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on negligent

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