1

literal

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

Definition of literal

  1. 1a :  according with the letter of the scriptures adheres to a literal reading of the passageb :  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. Cardozoc :  free from exaggeration or embellishment the literal truthd :  characterized by a concern mainly with facts a very literal man

  2. 2 :  of, relating to, or expressed in letters The distress signal SOS has no literal meaning.

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

literality

play \ˌli-tə-ˈra-lə-tē\ noun

literalness

play \ˈli-t(ə-)rəl-nəs\ noun

Examples of literal in a Sentence

  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.

Recent Examples of literal from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'literal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of literal

Middle English, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin litteralis, from Latin, of a letter, from littera letter


2

literal

noun lit·er·al

Definition of literal

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

Origin and Etymology of literal

see 1literal


LITERAL Defined for English Language Learners

literal

play
adjective

Definition of literal for English Language Learners

  • : involving the ordinary or usual meaning of a word

  • : giving the meaning of each individual word

  • : completely true and accurate : not exaggerated


LITERAL Defined for Kids

literal

play
adjective lit·er·al \ˈli-tə-rəl\

Definition of literal for Students

  1. 1 :  following the ordinary or usual meaning of the words I'm using the word in its literal, not figurative, sense.

  2. 2 :  true to fact She gave a literal account of what she saw.

literally

adverb

literalness

noun


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