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  1. the quality or state of being literate, especially the ability to read and write.
  2. possession of education: to question someone's literacy.
  3. a person's knowledge of a particular subject or field: to acquire computer literacy; improving your financial literacy.

Origin of literacy

First recorded in 1880–85; liter(ate) + -acy
Related formsan·ti·lit·er·a·cy, adjective


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2. learning, culture.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for literacy


  1. the ability to read and write
  2. the ability to use language proficiently
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

Word Origin and History for literacy


1883, formed in English from literate + -cy. Illiteracy, however, dates back to 17c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper