What does illiterate mean?

Definitions for illiterate
ɪˈlɪt ər ɪtil·lit·er·ate

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word illiterate.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. illiterate, illiterate person, nonreaderadjective

    a person unable to read

  2. illiterateadjective

    not able to read or write

  3. ignorant, illiterateadjective

    uneducated in the fundamentals of a given art or branch of learning; lacking knowledge of a specific field

    "she is ignorant of quantum mechanics"; "he is musically illiterate"

  4. illiterateadjective

    lacking culture, especially in language and literature


  1. illiteratenoun

    an illiterate person, one not able to read.

  2. illiterateadjective

    Unable to read and write.

  3. illiterateadjective

    Having less than an expected standard of familiarity with language and literature, or having little formal education.

  4. illiterateadjective

    Not conforming to prescribed standards of speech or writing.

  5. Etymology: Recorded in English since 1556, from illitteratus 'unlearned, ignorant', itself from in- 'un-' + litteratus, literally "furnished with letters" (from littera 'letter, character')

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. ILLITERATEadjective

    Unlettered; untaught; unlearned; unenlightened by science.

    Etymology: illiteratus, Latin.

    The duke was illiterate, yet had learned at court to supply his own defects, by the drawing unto him of the best instruments of experience. Henry Wotton.

    Th' illiterate writer, empirick like, applies
    To minds diseas'd unsafe chance remedies:
    The learn'd in schools, where knowledge first began,
    Studies with care th' anatomy of man;
    Sees virtue, vice, and passions in their cause,
    And fame from science, not from fortune draws. Dryden.

    In the first ages of Christianity not only the learned and the wise, but the ignorant and illiterate embraced torments and death. John Tillotson, Sermons.


  1. illiterate

    Literacy in its broadest sense describes "particular ways of thinking about and doing reading and writing" with the purpose of understanding or expressing thoughts or ideas in written form in some specific context of use. In other words, humans in literate societies have sets of practices for producing and consuming writing, and they also have beliefs about these practices. Reading, in this view, is always reading something for some purpose; writing is always writing something for someone for some particular ends. Beliefs about reading and writing and its value for society and for the individual always influence the ways literacy is taught, learned, and practiced over the lifespan. Some researchers suggest that the history of interest in the concept of "literacy" can be divided into two periods. Firstly is the period before 1950, when literacy was understood solely as alphabetical literacy (word and letter recognition). Secondly is the period after 1950, when literacy slowly began to be considered as a wider concept and process, including the social and cultural aspects of reading and writing, and functional literacy.


  1. illiterate

    Illiterate refers to a person who is unable to read or write. Furthermore, it can also be applied to someone who has little or no knowledge or experience in a particular field or subject.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Illiterateadjective

    ignorant of letters or books; unlettered; uninstructed; uneducated; as, an illiterate man, or people

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Illiterate

    il-lit′ėr-āt, adj. not learned: uninstructed: ignorant.—n.pl. a term used to designate those persons who are unable to read or write or both.—adv. Illit′erately.—ns. Illit′erateness, Illit′eracy, state of being illiterate: want of learning.

How to pronounce illiterate?

How to say illiterate in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of illiterate in Chaldean Numerology is: 2

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of illiterate in Pythagorean Numerology is: 3

Examples of illiterate in a Sentence

  1. Harbans Singh:

    We are illiterate farmers; we seek advice from the vendor and just spray on the crop.

  2. P. J. O'Rourke:

    Very little is known of the Canadian country since it is rarely visited by anyone but the Queen and illiterate sport fishermen.

  3. Carl Burkybile:

    What we teach is very simple, but it’s life changing and even lifesaving, we’re always looking for ways to reach new people. The videos are exciting because illiterate farmers can learn how to do these things.

  4. Mokhtar Awad:

    This is a security regime that can be easily penetrated by ISIS-trained operatives, most of the security personnel staffing posts are largely untrained, uneducated, even illiterate conscripts.

  5. Alvin Toffler:

    The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for illiterate

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

Get even more translations for illiterate »


Find a translation for the illiterate definition in other languages:

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • العربية (Arabic)
  • Français (French)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • עברית (Hebrew)
  • Gaeilge (Irish)
  • Українська (Ukrainian)
  • اردو (Urdu)
  • Magyar (Hungarian)
  • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Türkçe (Turkish)
  • తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Čeština (Czech)
  • Polski (Polish)
  • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Românește (Romanian)
  • Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latinum (Latin)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • Dansk (Danish)
  • Suomi (Finnish)
  • فارسی (Persian)
  • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English (English)

Word of the Day

Would you like us to send you a FREE new word definition delivered to your inbox daily?

Please enter your email address:


Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:


"illiterate." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 21 Jul 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/illiterate>.

Discuss these illiterate definitions with the community:


    Are we missing a good definition for illiterate? Don't keep it to yourself...

    Image or illustration of


    Credit »

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Chrome

    Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

    Free, no signup required:

    Add to Firefox

    Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

    Browse Definitions.net


    Are you a words master?

    very irritable
    A sesquipedalian
    B bristly
    C pecuniary
    D valetudinarian

    Nearby & related entries:

    Alternative searches for illiterate: