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

Hurling is considered one of the oldest field games in the world; apparently, literary references trace it back to at least 1272 BC, although its popularity across Ireland has fluctuated — and regional differences in rules were once common. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Meghan Markle Is Now Officially a Hurling Spectator. What's Hurling?," 11 July 2018 But the show’s literary references may hold a clue. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Puzzled by Westworld? Look to Shakespeare.," 26 June 2018 As Douce Chanson, the book won France’s 2016 Prix Goncourt, the prestigious literary prize that has previously been given to Michel Houllebecq, Marcel Proust, and Simone de Beauvoir. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, "The New Domestic Horror," 22 Jan. 2018 Mashup self-portraits by Tim Hawkinson have likewise been exhibited before at the gallery and in this context take on a new toxicity: historical, literary and biological. Charles Desmarais,, "Summer exhibition at Hosfelt Gallery a monstrous affair," 6 July 2018 Eggers published the screenplay as a special issue of his literary magazine, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Joseph Bien-kahn, WIRED, "Radical As Ever, Boots Riley Takes On the Tech Boom," 4 July 2018 The Boston Review also declined to remove Díaz from his role as fiction editor for the literary magazine. Michael Schaub,, "Junot Díaz denies misconduct allegations; his accusers respond," 2 July 2018 Three other editors at the Boston Review resigned in protest of the literary magazine's decision to retain Díaz despite the allegations. Daniel Arkin /, NBC News, "Junot Díaz denies misconduct allegations, says he was 'shocked'," 2 July 2018 The gallery presents their artistic and literary contributions and their important artistic legacy in Manchester. Courant Community, "Community News For The Manchester Edition," 5 June 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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Phrases Related to literary

literary agent

Statistics for literary

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for literary

The first known use of literary was in 1605

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More Definitions for literary



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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