From Latin incohātus (begun, unfinished), perfect passive participle of incohō (begin). Cognate with Spanish incoar (to initiate, commence, begin).


Noun, adjective:



inchoate (comparative more inchoate, superlative most inchoate)

  1. Recently started but not fully formed yet; just begun; only elementary or immature.
    Synonyms: elementary, immature, embryonic, incipient, nascent, rudimentary
    • 1614, Walter Ralegh [i.e., Walter Raleigh], The Historie of the World [], London: [] William Stansby for Walter Burre, [], →OCLC, (please specify |book=1 to 5):
      neither a substance perfect, nor a substance inchoate
    • 1677, Richard Allestree, The Art of Contentment, p. 187
      It do's indeed perfect and crown thoſe graces which were here inchoate and begun, but no mans converſion ever ſucceeded his being there ...
    • 1803, Supreme Court of the United States, Marbury v. Madison
      This appointment is evidenced by an open, unequivocal act, and, being the last act required from the person making it, necessarily excludes the idea of its being, so far as it respects the appointment, an inchoate and incomplete transaction.
    • 1839, Cherokee Constitution
      It being determined that a constitution should be made for the inchoate government, men were selected by its sponsors, from those at the Illinois Camp Ground, including as many western Cherokees as could be induced to sign it.
    • 1885, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, On the Death of General Gordon
      ...unfortunately, we have to face inchoate schemes which will demand the utmost jealousy and vigilance of Parliament.
    • 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson; Lloyd Osbourne, “The Tribulations of Morris: Part the First”, in The Wrong Box, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., →OCLC, page 85:
      The private conception of any breach of law is apt to be inspiriting, for the scheme (while yet inchoate) wears dashing and attractive colours.
    • 1892, George Gissing, Born In Exile:
      A youth whose brain glowed like a furnace, whose heart throbbed with tumult of high ambitions, of inchoate desires.
    • 1919, H. P. Lovecraft, The Doom That Came to Sarnath
      Very odd and ugly were these beings, as indeed are most beings of a world yet inchoate and rudely fashioned.
    • 1928, Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf
      How inutterably sad was the look this fluid inchoate figure of the wolf threw from his beautiful shy eyes.
    • 2004, David Hajdu, "Folk Hero", The New Yorker, 29 March 2004
      Guthrie’s inchoate socialist leanings grew into a deep commitment to the labor movement.
  2. Chaotic, disordered, confused; also, incoherent, rambling.
    • 2012, Andrew Martin, Underground Overground: A passenger's history of the Tube, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 73:
      The Met's chairman, Sir Edward Watkin, was also chairman of that company [the Manchester,Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway], which duplicated other railways' routes in an inchoate way between Manchester and Grimsby, and generally stumbled about the north.
    Synonyms: chaotic, confused
  3. (law) Of a crime, imposing criminal liability for an incompleted act.
    • 2006, United States v. McKenney, 450 F.3d 39 (1st Cir. 2006)
      Congress considers the inchoate offenses of attempt and conspiracy, even conspiracy without an overt act, to be just as serious as the federal substantive drug offenses which they contemplate.



inchoate (plural inchoates)

  1. (rare) A beginning, an immature start.


inchoate (third-person singular simple present inchoates, present participle inchoating, simple past and past participle inchoated)

  1. (transitive) To begin or start (something).
  2. (transitive) To cause or bring about.
  3. (intransitive) To make a start.

Related termsEdit






  1. second-person plural present active imperative of inchoō