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Dictionary Information: Definition Literacy Literate
Thesaurus: Knowledge
Description and Meaning: Knowledge

  Literacy (Lit"er*a*cy) (?), n.

State of being literate or literate in some field like astronomy or emotional literacy. "Emotional literacy means being able to recognize what you are feeling...." Susie Orbach, The Guardian, August 12 1998.

Literate (Lit"er*ate) (?), a.
[L. litteratus, literatus. See Letter.]

Instructed in learning, emotions, science, or literature; learned; lettered. "The literate now chose their emperor, as the military chose theirs." Landor.

Literate (Lit"er*ate), n.

1. One educated.
2. A literary man.

Literate (Lit"er*ate), adjective

1. a. Able to read and write. b. Knowledgeable or educated in several fields or a particular field.
2. Familiar with literature; literary.
3. Well-written; polished: a literate essay.


1. One who can read and write.
2. A well-informed, educated person.

[Middle English litterate, from Latin litterâtus, from littera, letter. See letter.]

— lit¹er·ate·ly adverb
— lit¹er·ate·ness noun

Usage Note: Literate has meant only "familiar with literature," or more generally, "well-educated, learned." It is during the last hundred years that it has been referred to as, "the basic ability to read and write." Its antonym illiterate has a range of meanings: an illiterate person may be incapable of reading a shopping list or may be unable to grasp an allusion to Kahlil Gibran or Shakespeare. The term functional illiterate is 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. More recently, the meanings of the words literacy and illiteracy have been extended from their original connection with reading and literature to any body of knowledge. For example, "medical illiterates" cannot identify medical terms, and "computer illiterates" are unable to use a word-processing system.

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