Definition of imperfect in English:



  • 1Not perfect; faulty or incomplete.

    ‘an imperfect grasp of English’
    • ‘And thus, it had been the perfect end to the imperfect day.’
    • ‘It is wise to recognize we are all imperfect in some way.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And, as everyone knows, those who are imperfect must be punished mercilessly.’
    • ‘Because we are human and imperfect, forgiveness can be very difficult for us.’
    • ‘He or she can resort to autobiographies and biographies - some positive, others negative, and all 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 imperfect in the way that all low-budget features are.’
    • ‘Cutting loose from the unsung genius is, however, his only chance at real fulfillment, real love, real mastery, transient and imperfect as they are.’
    • ‘It's tough trying to be perfect in an imperfect world.’
    • ‘It may be of imperfect obligation, imperfect in the sense that it does not withdraw jurisdiction.’
    • ‘It's messy and imperfect because we are both of those things.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Most believers are imperfect in one way or another.’
    • ‘But like most human institutions, scientific peer review is limited in scope and imperfect.’
    • ‘However, gravitational lenses are imperfect because the rays that pass closest to the lensing mass are deflected more than rays passing further away.’
    • ‘In a country that doesn't have or especially want an identity card, all forms of identification are imperfect by definition.’
    • ‘So many of us understand others are human and imperfect, but forget the same is true for ourselves.’
    • ‘Public justice can only be partial and imperfect - a kind of metonymy for the ideal of justice.’
    • ‘For once, the concept was great but the execution imperfect.’
    incomplete, abridged, not whole, not entire, partial, unfinished, half-done
    broken, disjointed, faltering, halting, hesitant, rudimentary, limited, non-fluent, deficient
    faulty, flawed, defective, shoddy, unsound, unsaleable, unsellable, unfit, inferior, second-rate, below par, below standard, substandard
    View synonyms
  • 2Grammar
    (of a tense) denoting a past action in progress but not completed at the time in question.

    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Gee, was that an imperfect tense or an indicative?’
  • 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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But the lessee's solicitors have been happy to be sitting there with this imperfect title for months.’


  • 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.