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See more synonyms for imperfect on Thesaurus.com
  1. of, relating to, or characterized by defects or weaknesses: imperfect vision.
  2. not perfect; lacking completeness: imperfect knowledge.
  3. Grammar. noting action or state still in process at some temporal point of reference, particularly in the past.
  4. Law. being without legal effect or support; unenforceable.
  5. Botany. (of a flower) diclinous.
  6. Music. of or relating to the interval of a major or minor third or sixth.Compare perfect(def 13a).
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noun Grammar.
  1. the imperfect tense.
  2. another verb formation or construction with imperfect meaning.
  3. a form in the imperfect, as Latin portābam, “I was carrying.”
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Origin of imperfect

1300–50; < Latin imperfectus unfinished (see im-2, perfect); replacing Middle English imparfit < Middle French imparfait < Latin, as above
Related formsim·per·fect·ly, adverbim·per·fect·ness, noun


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2. complete, developed.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for imperfectly

Historical Examples

  • Lady Glistonbury had but imperfectly recovered her recollection.

    Tales And Novels, Volume 5 (of 10)

    Maria Edgeworth

  • These questions of nutrition are still so imperfectly studied and understood!

  • A cup of tea made him remember but imperfectly what had happened.

  • What had been the early life of this person was but imperfectly known.

  • These difficulties are but imperfectly answered by Socrates in what follows.

British Dictionary definitions for imperfectly


  1. exhibiting or characterized by faults, mistakes, etc; defective
  2. not complete or finished; deficient
  3. botany
    1. (of flowers) lacking functional stamens or pistils
    2. (of fungi) not undergoing sexual reproduction
  4. grammar denoting a tense of verbs used most commonly in describing continuous or repeated past actions or events, as for example was walking as opposed to walked
  5. law (of a trust, an obligation, etc) lacking some necessary formality to make effective or binding; incomplete; legally unenforceableSee also executory (def. 1)
  6. music
    1. (of a cadence) proceeding to the dominant from the tonic, subdominant, or any chord other than the dominant
    2. of or relating to all intervals other than the fourth, fifth, and octaveCompare perfect (def. 9)
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  1. grammar
    1. the imperfect tense
    2. a verb in this tense
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Derived Formsimperfectly, adverbimperfectness, noun
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 imperfectly



mid-14c., imperfite, from Old French imparfait, from Latin imperfectus "unfinished, incomplete," from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + perfectus (see perfect). Replaced mid-16c. by the Latin form. Related: Imperfectly.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper