a. Able to read and write.
b. Knowledgeable or educated in a particular field or fields.
- Familiar with literature; literary.
- Well-written; polished: a literate essay.
- One who can read and write.
- A well-informed, educated person.
Origin: Middle English litterate
Origin: , from Latin litterātus
Origin: , from littera, lītera, letter; see letter
Related Forms:Usage Note:
For most of its long history in English, literate
has meant only “familiar with literature,” or more generally, “well-educated, learned.” Only since the late 19th century has it also come to refer to the basic ability to read and write. Its antonym illiterate
has an equally broad range of meanings: an illiterate
person may be incapable of reading a shopping list or unable to grasp an allusion to Shakespeare or Keats. The term functional illiterate
is often used to describe a person who can read or write to some degree, but below a minimum level required to function in even a limited social situation or job setting. An aliterate
person, by contrast, is one who is capable of reading and writing but who has little interest in doing so, whether out of indifference to learning in general or from a preference for seeking information and entertainment by other means. • More recently, the meanings of the words literacy
have been extended from their original connection with reading and literature to any body of knowledge. For example, “geographic illiterates” cannot identify the countries on a map, and “computer illiterates” are unable to use a word-processing system. All of these uses of literacy