Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Unable to read and write.
  • adj. Having little or no formal education.
  • adj. Marked by inferiority to an expected standard of familiarity with language and literature.
  • adj. Violating prescribed standards of speech or writing.
  • adj. Ignorant of the fundamentals of a given art or branch of knowledge: musically illiterate. See Usage Note at literate.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Unable to read and write.
  • adj. Having less than an expected standard of familiarity with language and literature, or having little formal education.
  • adj. Not conforming to prescribed standards of speech or writing.
  • n. an illiterate person, one not able to read.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Unable to read or write; ignorant of letters or books; unlettered; uninstructed; uneducated.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Ignorant of letters or books; having little or no learning; unlettered; uncultivated: as, the illiterate part of the population; an illiterate tribe.
  • Showing illiteracy or want of culture; rude; barbarous.
  • Synonyms Unlettered, Unlearned, etc. See ignorant.
  • n. An illiterate person; one unable to read or to write.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a person unable to read
  • adj. not able to read or write
  • adj. lacking culture, especially in language and literature
  • adj. uneducated in the fundamentals of a given art or branch of learning; lacking knowledge of a specific field

Etymologies

Middle English, from Latin illīterātus : in-, not; see in-1 + līterātus, literate; see literate.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Recorded in English since 1556, from Latin illitteratus 'unlearned, ignorant', itself from in- 'un-' + litteratus, literally "furnished with letters" (from littera 'letter, character') (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • ill+iter+ate

    February 5, 2014

  • Where's the illaqueate? (or is an illapse called for?)

    February 25, 2012

  • Some one who's sick of reading? (From Wiley's Dictionary - B.C. cartoon 2/25/12)

    February 25, 2012

  • uncultured or poorly educated: as in unable to distiguish betweeen 'word' and 'phrase,' or 'name'

    September 20, 2008