Definition of inchoate in English:



  • 1Just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary.

    ‘a still inchoate democracy’
    • ‘They are thus left to float free in the sea of popular culture, without cultural or moral bearings and prey to the inchoate but deep resentments that this popular culture so successfully inculcates.’
    • ‘Between 1984 and 1987 he personified our inchoate desire to shake free of the Muldoon years and remake ourselves in a bolder, prouder way.’
    • ‘As the pace of industrialization quickened in the 1890s, in tandem with a mounting agrarian slump assailing gentry and peasants alike, new social groups emerged and focused an inchoate but widespread discontent.’
    • ‘This applies to clearly defined areas such as foreign affairs and education policy, as well as to more inchoate issues such as where tolerance of diversity begins and ends.’
    • ‘Moreover, new power structures and established institutions invariably come to replace the old ones, and any initial glow of inchoate democracy can easily be undermined by the rising centers of symbolic power.’
    • ‘Buried somewhere in this inchoate play is a potentially interesting idea about the way we all use theatrical games as a protection against life.’
    • ‘Those who purge Darwin from America's schools must yell in order to drown out their own misgivings, the inchoate realization that they are barking at the moon.’
    • ‘Musicals answered my need to give that inchoate adolescent passion form, to embrace experience and then see a pattern in its marks on me.’
    • ‘I can't tell you what inchoate rage fills my breast as I quote you this statistic.’
    • ‘I loved the way she could draw you into an inchoate world where half-expressed motivations were always shifting and uneasy - everything was undercurrent, it was all subtext and no text.’
    • ‘Classic poetry and rhetoric give kids a language, at once subtle and copious, in which to articulate their own thoughts, perceptions, and inchoate feelings.’
    • ‘All four had the inchoate desire to work in journalism when they applied to graduate school but felt clueless about how to get a serious job in journalism.’
    • ‘The ‘information society’ is only explicable in terms of the future, of its ultimate limits rather than its incipient, inchoate beginnings.’
    • ‘Not that I was a musical illiterate: I did enjoy the light-classical pieces, some of which inspired me to an inchoate creativity.’
    • ‘My responses were probably stupid and certainly inchoate.’
    • ‘We saw all the early inchoate gestures of the alternative comedy movement when it was still alternative, and before it had swamped the festival with its commercial machine.’
    • ‘The inchoate character of memory makes it difficult to know what is important about the past or, for that matter, what role the past plays in the present.’
    • ‘Furthermore, the Reformed objection to natural theology, unformed and inchoate as it is, may best be seen as a rejection of classical foundationalism.’
    • ‘In Him there are no parts or passions, nothing inchoate or incomplete, nothing by communication, nothing of quality, nothing which admits of increase, nothing common to others.’
    • ‘A native title ‘claim’ is not technically made for recompense for past loss, but for the recognition of current but inchoate rights.’
    rudimentary, undeveloped, unformed, immature, incomplete, incipient, just beginning
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    1. 1.1Law (of an offense, such as incitement or conspiracy) anticipating a further criminal act.
      • ‘The essence of conspiracy is inchoate and the criminality is not to be judged merely by reference to those objectives which are actually achieved.’
      • ‘Prosecutors now target some of the same conduct with other statutes, such as conspiracy statutes and inchoate crimes, in order to accomplish the same goal of preventing extremist groups from acting on their ideologies.’
      • ‘This is essentially the key question in deciding on the appropriate basis for the criminal responsibility required for commission of the inchoate offences of incitement, conspiracy and attempt.’
      • ‘Conspiracy is one of the three inchoate offences in English criminal law, to be discussed in Chapter 11 below, but conspiracy may also be charged when the acts agreed upon have actually been committed.’
      • ‘Why can a conspirator be charged with both the inchoate offense of conspiracy and the robbery?’


Because inchoate means ‘just begun and so not fully formed or developed,’ a sense of ‘disorder’ may be implied. But to extend the usage of inchoate to mean ‘chaotic, confused, incoherent’ (he speaks in an inchoate manner) is incorrect, although not uncommon. Perhaps even more common are incorrect pronunciations of inchoate, such as /inˈCHōt/, which assumes two syllables (rather than three) and a ch sound like that of chair or chosen (rather than a k sound like that of charisma or chorus)


Mid 16th century: from Latin inchoatus, past participle of inchoare, variant of incohare ‘begin’.