lit·​er·​ary | \ˈli-tə-ˌrer-ē \

Definition of literary 

1a : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of humane learning or literature a literary education a literary institution

b : bookish sense 2 an essay written in a very literary style

c : of or relating to books a literary agent a literary manuscript

2a : well-read he is literary, given to quoting to himself rather long stretches of remembered lines— F. J. Hoffman

b : of or relating to authors or scholars or to their professions her literary biographies

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Other Words from literary

literarily \ ˌli-​tə-​ˈrer-​ə-​lē \ adverb
literariness \ ˈli-​tə-​ˌrer-​ē-​nəs \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for literary


bookish, erudite, learned


colloquial, nonliterary, unbookish

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Examples of literary in a Sentence

Do his books have any literary merit? Mystery fiction is only one of many literary forms. an essay written in a very literary style The author uses many literary devices in his work. He entered the literary world right out of college. She hired a literary agent.
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Recent Examples on the Web

My idea of a great literary dinner party is Fran, eating alone, reading a book. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "This Month in Books: ‘What Used To Be Me Before the World Buried It’," 10 July 2018 Michiko Kakutani, literary critic Shakespeare’s collected plays. The Atlantic, "What Book or Article Would You Make Required Reading for Everyone on Earth?," 26 June 2018 Another master of Middle East affairs, the late literary critic Edward W. Said, described Dr. Lewis as a peddler of old-school dictums about the need for a strong guiding hand with the region. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, "Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101," 19 May 2018 At the literary party, the editors and writers seemed exhausted by it, asking if it can be retired. Rebecca Farley,, "Dear White People Season 2 Binge Club: Episodes 1 - 3 Recaps," 4 May 2018 Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. Daniel Beer, New York Times, "Does Vladimir Putin Speak for the Russian People?," 6 July 2018 Especially now, when the literary world is coming to grips with its own sexism and prejudice, the Swedish Academy should have set a different tone. David L. Ulin,, "There will be no Nobel Prize in literature this year. And that's a shame.," 11 May 2018 After all, for most of human history, poetry was just as popular as those other arts and quite a bit more popular than prose, which is a comparative newcomer in the literary world. Adam Kirsch, WSJ, "Poetry for the Pleasure of It," 13 Apr. 2018 Nemens lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is not a denizen of the New York literary world as it is traditionally construed. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Paris Review announces its new editor: Emily Nemens.," 5 Apr. 2018

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

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First Known Use of literary

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for literary

Last Updated

9 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for literary

The first known use of literary was in 1605

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English Language Learners Definition of literary

: of or relating to literature

: used in literature

: having a lot of knowledge about literature : known for reading or writing books


lit·​er·​ary | \ˈli-tə-ˌrer-ē \

Kids Definition of literary

: of or relating to literature

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More from Merriam-Webster on literary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for literary

Spanish Central: Translation of literary

Nglish: Translation of literary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of literary for Arabic Speakers

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