pre·​lit·​er·​ate ˌprē-ˈli-t(ə-)rət How to pronounce preliterate (audio)
: not yet employing writing as a cultural medium
: lacking the use of writing
: antedating the use of writing
preliterate noun

Examples of preliterate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The sheer variety of precious objects alerts 21st-century visitors to the ingenuity that kept our preliterate ancestors at the top of the planet's food chain. Jack Schnedler, Arkansas Online, 2 Nov. 2021 The likelihood of preliterate peoples first inventing tales that then somehow corresponded closely to later fossil finds seems like a stunning coincidence. Timothy John Burbery, The Conversation, 6 Aug. 2021 The enormous number of dog burials unearthed from the period between 14,000 and 4,000 years ago indicates the esteem preliterate societies had for dogs. Longreads, 22 Mar. 2018

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

Word History

First Known Use

1925, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of preliterate was in 1925

Dictionary Entries Near preliterate

Cite this Entry

“Preliterate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​lit·​er·​ate (ˈ)prē-ˈlit-ə-rət How to pronounce preliterate (audio)
: existing before or lacking the use of writing
preliterate societies
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