1

literal

adjective lit·er·al \ ˈli-t(ə-)rəl \

Definition of literal

1 a :according with the letter of the scriptures
  • adheres to a literal reading of the passage
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 :of, relating to, or expressed in letters
  • The distress signal SOS has no literal meaning.
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

Definition of literal

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

Origin and Etymology of literal


LITERAL Defined for Kids

literal

adjective lit·er·al \ ˈli-tə-rəl \

Definition of literal for Students

1 :following the ordinary or usual meaning of the words
  • I'm using the word in its literal, not figurative, sense.
2 :true to fact
  • She gave a literal account of what she saw.

literally

adverb

literalness

noun


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