lit·​er·​ary | \ ˈli-tə-ˌrer-ē How to pronounce literary (audio) \

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 How to pronounce literarily (audio) \ adverb
literariness \ ˈli-​tə-​ˌrer-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce literariness (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for literary



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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 The book not only helped kickstart a memoir boom in literary circles, but foreshadowed the squirm-inducing oversharing of the coming social media age. Alex Williams, New York Times, "Elizabeth Wurtzel Finally Grew Up, Like the Rest of Gen X," 8 Jan. 2020 The bestseller list is compiled by NPD Bookscan, which has received criticism from the literary world as methodologically imperfect. Cassie Werber, Quartz, "The bestselling books of the decade tell a complex story about women," 22 Dec. 2019 Certainly one of the remarkable things about Mr. Heinemann and his writing was that his was a voice not often found in refined literary circles., "“When Mr. Heinemann’s name was announced,” an account of the awards ceremony in The New York Times said, “a brief silence gripped the ballroom, followed by uncertain applause.”," 19 Dec. 2019 The same goes for Chu’s tweets; she is known in literary circles for her brilliant ability to prod and provoke. Sophie Kemp, Vogue, "Andrea Long Chu on Her Juicily Transgressive Book, Females," 16 Dec. 2019 The shop has become a staple for prominent romance novelists on tour, as well as a bucket list destination for readers who for far too long felt marginalized within the greater literary world. Samantha Leach, Glamour, "The Ripped Bodice Is the Only Romance Bookstore in the Country. For the Sisters Who Opened It, It's a Love Story," 4 Dec. 2019 The literary world of the 2010s delivered a number of noteworthy memoirs by African American authors. Lakshmi Gandhi, NBC News, "5 African American memoirs that belong on your shelf," 3 Dec. 2019 Ovid’s career started when Roman literary circles were devoted to two figures: Virgil and Horace. Esteban Berché, National Geographic, "Did Ovid's erotic poetry lead to his exile from Rome?," 26 Nov. 2019 The literary world is mourning the loss of one of its greats this week. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Acclaimed Louisiana Novelist Ernest J. Gaines Dies at 86," 6 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for literary

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The first known use of literary was in 1605

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Statistics for literary

Last Updated

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Literary.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for literary


How to pronounce literary (audio)

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 How to pronounce literary (audio) \

Kids Definition of literary

: of or relating to literature

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Comments on literary

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


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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