Definition of literacy in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The ability to read and write.

    ‘tests of literacy and numeracy’
    [as modifier] ‘adult literacy programmes’
    • ‘Her students must not only develop literacy in their first language but also prepare themselves to survive academically in English.’
    • ‘The government has concentrated its efforts more on youth than on adult literacy.’
    • ‘Recently, these schools began restructuring their early literacy programs in both English and Spanish.’
    • ‘If you've got too much cash, give it to an adult literacy program or some other charity.’
    • ‘The variety of language used at home and school has a direct bearing on children's literacy.’
    • ‘What then happens to efforts to increase female literacy and encourage girls to go to school?’
    • ‘There is low literacy among the survey population, and this was an additional limitation.’
    • ‘But the yardstick to measure the literacy rate is just the ability to read and write one's name.’
    • ‘Its treasures must be plundered and used to fund literacy programmes and childcare.’
    • ‘Innovative programmes successfully encouraged adults to develop their literacy and numeracy skills.’
    • ‘Less than 40 percent of children complete primary school and functional adult literacy is as low as 22 percent.’
    • ‘It outlawed literacy tests and poll taxes as a way of assessing whether anyone was fit or unfit to vote.’
    • ‘Ms Clark said that while the Government was taking steps to tackle the problem of low adult literacy, there is still much work to be done.’
    • ‘There is work on effective teaching initiatives and initiatives for adult literacy.’
    • ‘It also helps parents and carers to ‘brush up’ on their own skills in literacy and numeracy.’
    • ‘We have recently seen many important educational policy initiatives in the area of children's literacy.’
    • ‘Work will also be carried out to promote family literacy and numeracy projects, such as staging adult learning classes.’
    • ‘The identification of adult literacy as a major problem has, of course, been a focus of this Government.’
    • ‘Thus, the parents have not had many opportunities to use and improve their English literacy.’
    • ‘One in five adults has poor literacy skills and it is many of these who cannot find employment.’
    ability to read and write, reading ability, writing ability, reading proficiency, writing proficiency
    learning, book learning, education, scholarship, schooling
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Competence or knowledge in a specified area.
      ‘computer literacy is essential’
      • ‘Financial literacy improved with work experience and income.’
      • ‘Inadequate health literacy was identified in 16 participants.’
      • ‘This is the challenge of actually tapping the talent and cultural literacy in our diverse population.’
      • ‘It's not computer literacy these lost kids need, but cultural literacy.’
      • ‘He even suggested use of pirated software may promote computer literacy.’
      • ‘They work to improve Third World women's economic literacy and access to education.’
      • ‘In fact, many of the activities that are used to teach media literacy take this approach.’
      • ‘Group lessons can, therefore, establish the instructional model that can enhance the emotional literacy of every piano student.’
      • ‘Patients with inadequate health literacy are more likely to be hospitalized than patients with adequate skills.’
      • ‘Basic computer literacy and an interest in making things are the only requirements.’


Late 19th century: from literate, on the pattern of illiteracy.