• IPA: /ˈlɪt(ə)ɹəl/


  1. Exactly as stated; read or understood without additional interpretation; according to the letter or verbal expression; real; not figurative or metaphorical.
    The literal translation is “hands full of bananas” but it means empty-handed.
    • Hooker
      a middle course between the rigour of literal translation and the liberty of paraphrasts
  2. Following the letter or exact words; not free; not taking liberties.
    A literal reading of the law would prohibit it, but that is clearly not the intent.
  3. (uncommon) Consisting of, or expressed by, letters.
    a literal equation
    • Johnson
      The literal notation of numbers was known to Europeans before the ciphers.
  4. (of a person) Giving a strict or literal construction; unimaginative; matter-of-fact.
  5. (proscribed) Used non-literally as an intensifier; see literally#English|literally for usage notes.
    Telemarketers are the literal worst.
Antonyms Related terms Translations Translations Translations Noun

literal (plural literals)

  1. (epigraphy, typography) A misprint (or occasionally a scribal error) that affects a letter.
    Synonyms: typo
  2. (programming) A value, as opposed to an identifier, written into the source code of a computer program.
    Synonyms: literal constant
  3. (logic) A propositional variable or the negation of a propositional variable. Literal (mathematical logic)

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