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


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

Gaiman's 75-issue revival of the character are an odd mix of mythology, fantasy, horror, and history, rife with literary references and a fair bit of dark humor. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "At long last, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is being adapted for television," 1 July 2019 Students were challenged by teacher Hunter Parker, who over the last two years has continued the tradition started before her, to fully research and immerse themselves into the lives and worlds of one fictional literary character. Michael Walsh,, "Hall High School Acting Students Assume Fictional Characters For A Day," 24 June 2019 In 1999, he was given the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary prize, for his contributions to literature and theatre. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Girish Karnad, one of India’s most respected actor-directors, has passed away," 10 June 2019 My subject was Yukio Mishima, forty-one at the time, a best-selling novelist, playwright, literary critic, and flamboyant man-about-town. John Nathan, The New York Review of Books, "‘Night and Blood and Death’," 23 May 2019 The book, which followed a young girl maneuvering an erudite, perhaps dangerous high-school experience, won literary prizes and became a New York Times bestseller. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "Marisha Pessl's Neverworld Wake Is the Preppy Thriller Everyone Will Be Reading This Summer," 8 June 2018 In the event, students design cakes and cupcakes inspired by a children’s book or literary character. Rachel K. Hindery,, "'It was like a story came to life on a cake': Children's literature the theme for CakeLit at Triton College," 16 Apr. 2018 The beloved British literary characters are, of course, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as well as Romeo and Juliet. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ is just OK," 23 Mar. 2018 The beloved British literary characters are, of course, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as well as Romeo and Juliet. Katie Walsh,, "With an uninspired vocal turn from Johnny Depp, 'Sherlock Gnomes' is as slight as its heroes," 23 Mar. 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

6 Jul 2019

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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 How to pronounce literary (audio) \

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

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).


characterized by aphorism

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