adjective \ˈli-t(ə-)rəl\

: involving the ordinary or usual meaning of a word

: giving the meaning of each individual word

: completely true and accurate : not exaggerated

Full Definition of LITERAL

a :  according with the letter of the scriptures
b :  adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression :  actual <liberty in the literal sense is impossible — B. N. Cardozo>
c :  free from exaggeration or embellishment <the literal truth>
d :  characterized by a concern mainly with facts <a very literal man>
:  of, relating to, or expressed in letters
:  reproduced word for word :  exact, verbatim <a literal translation>
lit·er·al·i·ty \ˌli-tə-ˈra-lə-tē\ noun
lit·er·al·ness \ˈli-t(ə-)rəl-nəs\ noun

Examples of LITERAL

  1. I was using the word in its literal sense.
  2. The literal meaning of know your ropes is to know a lot about ropes, while figuratively it means to know a lot about how to do something.
  3. a literal translation of a book
  4. The story he told was basically true, even if it wasn't the literal truth.

Origin of LITERAL

Middle English, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin litteralis, from Latin, of a letter, from littera letter
First Known Use: 14th century



Definition of LITERAL

:  a small error usually of a single letter (as in writing)

First Known Use of LITERAL


Rhymes with LITERAL


Next Word in the Dictionary: literal contract
Previous Word in the Dictionary: literacy
All Words Near: literal

Seen & Heard

What made you want to look up literal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).