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[ih-lej-uh-buh l] /ɪˈlɛdʒ ə bəl/
not legible; impossible or hard to read or decipher because of poor handwriting, faded print, etc.:
This letter is completely illegible.
Origin of illegible
First recorded in 1605-15; il-2 + legible
Related forms
illegibility, illegibleness, noun
illegibly, adverb
Can be confused
illegible, illiterate, unreadable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for illegibility
Historical Examples
  • Sometimes, owing to the illegibility of the writing, she has to study out sentences.

    The Arena Various
  • But there are other faults in writing besides ugliness and illegibility.

    Seeing and Hearing George W. E. Russell
  • There were traces of inscription on it, but eroded to illegibility.

    Where the World is Quiet Henry Kuttner
  • The state license number was gone, and the serial number on the engine had been hammered into illegibility.

  • A kind of illegibility, though a different kind, stole over Mr Boffin's face.

    Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens
  • I took the book, which was a masterpiece of illegibility, and added it up with my usual grace and felicity.

  • But Judith is deep in half-a-quire of illegibility, after an episode of a fork-point, and some impatience.

    It Never Can Happen Again

    William De Morgan
  • He immediately sat down at his desk and in a handwriting noted for its illegibility wrote the famous memorandum.

    An African Adventure Isaac F. Marcosson
  • illegibility in handwriting, or a stilted and difficult hand, is a great waste of time and energy, mainly the would-be reader's.

    The Etiquette of To-day Edith B. Ordway
  • The engraved legends were scored and worn to illegibility, and the meter was merely a black void in the panel.

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
British Dictionary definitions for illegibility


unable to be read or deciphered
Derived Forms
illegibility, illegibleness, noun
illegibly, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for illegibility



1630s, from assimilated form of in- (1) "not, opposite of" + legible. Related: Illegibly; illegibility.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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