Choate or inchoate

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Inchoate is an adjective used to describe someone or something as not completely developed or only just started. It can also be used to say something is nonsense or lacking logic.

In legal terms, inchoate describe an illegal action as being in preparation to another crime.

The adverb form is inchoately and the noun form is inchoateness.

Choate is also an adjective, almost always used in the legal sense, as an opposite of inchoate. If something is not in preparation to another crime, it would be choate. However, it should be noted that this word is not recognized by most dictionaries.

Choate is a back-formation, or in other words, it was created to be an opposite and did not originate from some other source. It is erroneous because it is assuming the in part of inchoate simply acts as a prefix. However, the original Latin was incohare, meaning to start. Because in  was not a prefix, removing it is not acceptable.

Using this word in a legal setting is very controversial and elicits strong opinions. It is our suggestion to avoid it entirely. One can say not inchoate or a myriad of other negative formations instead.


According to renowned urban planner and writer, the late Lewis Mumford, “Neighbourhoods, in some primitive, inchoate fashion exist wherever human beings congregate, in permanent family dwellings; and many of the functions of the city tend to be distributed naturally – that is, without any theoretical preoccupation or political direction – into neighborhoods.” [Greenwich Time]