Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

literal

play
adjective lit·er·al \ˈli-t(ə-)rəl\

Simple Definition of literal

  • : 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

  1. 1 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>

  2. 2 :  of, relating to, or expressed in letters

  3. 3 :  reproduced word for word :  exact, verbatim <a literal translation>

lit·er·al·i·ty play \ˌli-tə-ˈra-lə-tē\ noun
lit·er·al·ness play \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


2

literal

noun lit·er·al

Definition of literal

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



1622

First Known Use of literal

1622

Rhymes with literal



Seen and Heard

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

WORD OF THE DAY

February 13, 2016

a trying or distressing experience

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image33683556

How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

16.96 pounds 100 pounds 196.5 pounds 2.2 pounds
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ