Definition of imperfect in English:



  • 1Not perfect; faulty or incomplete.

    ‘an imperfect grasp of English’
    • ‘It's imperfect in the way that all low-budget features are.’
    • ‘Most believers are imperfect in one way or another.’
    • ‘It was one of my great disappointments with my father; we're all imperfect, but he just never accepted responsibility.’
    • ‘It's tough trying to be perfect in an imperfect world.’
    • ‘Because we are human and imperfect, forgiveness can be very difficult for us.’
    • ‘It may be of imperfect obligation, imperfect in the sense that it does not withdraw jurisdiction.’
    • ‘It makes no sense in a machine world to limit the functionality of perfect components so that imperfect components don't wear out or break - certainly not if you can replace them.’
    • ‘So many of us understand others are human and imperfect, but forget the same is true for ourselves.’
    • ‘In a country that doesn't have or especially want an identity card, all forms of identification are imperfect by definition.’
    • ‘Cutting loose from the unsung genius is, however, his only chance at real fulfillment, real love, real mastery, transient and imperfect as they are.’
    • ‘He is here following Socrates' method of the elenchus, where you propose a definition, but then throw it away if it is shown to be in some way imperfect.’
    • ‘He or she can resort to autobiographies and biographies - some positive, others negative, and all imperfect in one way or another.’
    • ‘And thus, it had been the perfect end to the imperfect day.’
    • ‘And, as everyone knows, those who are imperfect must be punished mercilessly.’
    • ‘For once, the concept was great but the execution imperfect.’
    • ‘It is wise to recognize we are all imperfect in some way.’
    • ‘But like most human institutions, scientific peer review is limited in scope and imperfect.’
    • ‘Public justice can only be partial and imperfect - a kind of metonymy for the ideal of justice.’
    • ‘It's messy and imperfect because we are both of those things.’
    • ‘However, gravitational lenses are imperfect because the rays that pass closest to the lensing mass are deflected more than rays passing further away.’
    faulty, flawed, defective, shoddy, unsound, unsaleable, unsellable, unfit, inferior, second-rate, below par, below standard, substandard
    incomplete, abridged, not whole, not entire, partial, unfinished, half-done
    broken, disjointed, faltering, halting, hesitant, rudimentary, limited, non-fluent, deficient
    View synonyms
  • 2Grammar
    (of a tense) denoting a past action in progress but not completed at the time in question.

    • ‘By his use of the Hebrew imperfect tense, the psalmist shows his present trust in God is based on past experiences of God's presence and help.’
    • ‘The difficulty comes from the fact that the imperfect here does not coherently offer a continuously unfolding present that would culminate in the receiving of the letter.’
    • ‘I'm not asking that you be able to name the preterit, imperfect, and subjunctive forms of the verb ‘to be.’’
    • ‘Gee, was that an imperfect tense or an indicative?’
    • ‘In Spanish, Senora Montoya invited me into her classroom, boasting about my superior abilities to conjugate verbs in the imperfect tense the quickest in the class.’
  • 3Music
    (of a cadence) ending on the dominant chord.

    • ‘But an imperfect cadence leaves the listener expecting resolution, which duly comes.’
    • ‘Another oft-stated rule was that a perfect 5th, unison, or octave should be approached by the nearest imperfect interval.’
  • 4Law
    (of a gift, title, etc.) transferred without all the necessary conditions or requirements being met.

    • ‘But the lessee's solicitors have been happy to be sitting there with this imperfect title for months.’
    • ‘The claimant's evidence was that the purported but imperfect gift had been made a long time previously and not (as the letter said) after receipt of Mr Blake's letter.’
    • ‘The donor, having by then changed his mind, declines to perfect the imperfect gift in favour of the intended donee.’


the imperfect
  • The imperfect tense.


Middle English imparfit, imperfet, from Old French imparfait, from Latin imperfectus, from in- ‘not’ + perfectus (see perfect). The spelling change in the 16th century was due to association with the Latin form.