adverb lit·er·al·ly \ˈli-tə-rə-lē, ˈli-trə-lē, ˈli-tər-lē\

Definition of LITERALLY

:  in a literal sense or manner :  actually <took the remark literally> <was literally insane>
:  in effect :  virtually <will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins>

Usage Discussion of LITERALLY

Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.

Examples of LITERALLY

  1. Many words can be used both literally and figuratively.
  2. He took her comments literally.
  3. He's a sailor who knows his ropes, literally and figuratively.
  4. The term Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday in French.
  5. The story he told was basically true, even if it wasn't literally true.
  6. … make the whole scene literally glow with the fires of his imagination. —Alfred Kazin, Harper's, December 1968


(see 1literal)
First Known Use: 1533

Rhymes with LITERALLY


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