What does literal mean?

Definitions for literal
ˈlɪt ər əllit·er·al

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word literal.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. misprint, erratum, typographical error, typo, literal error, literaladjective

    a mistake in printed matter resulting from mechanical failures of some kind

  2. actual, genuine, literal, realadjective

    being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something

    "her actual motive"; "a literal solitude like a desert"- G.K.Chesterton; "a genuine dilemma"

  3. literaladjective

    without interpretation or embellishment

    "a literal depiction of the scene before him"

  4. literaladjective

    limited to the explicit meaning of a word or text

    "a literal translation"

  5. literaladjective

    avoiding embellishment or exaggeration (used for emphasis)

    "it's the literal truth"


  1. literalnoun

    A value, as opposed to an identifier, written into the source code of a computer program.

  2. literalnoun

    A propositional variable or the negation of a propositional variable.

  3. literaladjective

    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.

  4. literaladjective

    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.

  5. literaladjective

    Consisting of, or expressed by, letters.

  6. Etymology: From literal, from litteralis, also literalis, from littera, litera; see letter.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. LITERALadjective

    Etymology: literal, French; litera, Latin.

    Through all the writings of the antient fathers, we see that the words, which were, do continue; the only difference is, that whereas before they had a literal, they now have a metaphorical use, and are as so many notes of remembrance unto us, that what they did signify in the letter, is accomplished in the truth. Richard Hooker, b. iv.

    A foundation, being primarily of use in architecture, hath no other literal notation but what belongs to it in relation to an house, or other building, nor figurative, but what is founded in that, and deduced from thence. Henry Hammond.

    The fittest for publick audience are such as, following a middle course between the rigour of literal translations and the liberty of paraphrasts, do with greater shortness and plainness deliver the meaning. Richard Hooker, b. v.

  2. Literalnoun

    Primitive or literal meaning.

    How dangerous it is in sensible things to use metaphorical expressions unto the people, and what absurd conceits they will swallow in their literals, an example we have in our profession. Thomas Browne, Vulgar Errours, b. iv.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Literaladjective

    according to the letter or verbal expression; real; not figurative or metaphorical; as, the literal meaning of a phrase

  2. Literaladjective

    following the letter or exact words; not free

  3. Literaladjective

    consisting of, or expressed by, letters

  4. Literaladjective

    giving a strict or literal construction; unimaginative; matter-of fast; -- applied to persons

  5. Literalnoun

    literal meaning

  6. Etymology: [F. litral, littral, L. litteralis, literalis, fr. littera, litera, a letter. See Letter.]


  1. Literal

    In mathematical logic, a literal is an atomic formula or its negation. The definition mostly appears in proof theory, e.g. in conjunctive normal form and the method of resolution. Literals can be divided into two types: ⁕A positive literal is just an atom. ⁕A negative literal is the negation of an atom. For a literal, the complementary literal is a literal corresponding to the negation of, we can write to denote the complementary literal of . More precisely, if then is and if then is . In the context of a formula in the conjunctive normal form, a literal is pure if the literal's complement does not appear in the formula.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Literal

    lit′ėr-al, adj. according to the letter: plain: not figurative or metaphorical: following the letter or exact meaning, word for word.—v.t. Lit′eralise.—ns. Lit′eraliser; Lit′eralism, strict adherence to the letter: interpretation that is merely verbal: (art) exact and unimaginative rendering of objects; Lit′eralist; Literal′ity.—adv. Lit′erally.—n. Lit′eralness. [Fr.,—L. literalislitera, a letter.]

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  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of literal in Chaldean Numerology is: 1

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of literal in Pythagorean Numerology is: 5

Examples of literal in a Sentence

  1. Grant Gaither:

    Until he says a literal N-word or something like that. Then yeah, I might be pissed, but that is beyond irrelevant to me.

  2. Oscar Auliq-Ice:

    When choosing a literal brand name, make sure it draws a clear association to the product or service you provide.

  3. Shaun Fletcher:

    We’re putting our athletes through a lot of painful literal and figurative hoops and hurdles with really no resolution at the end of it to tell them that this is the standard that is being set for competition, there needs to be a joint effort to determine the metric because athletics and institutions, they go off of metrics and standards that can be applied to the masses.

  4. Ben Sasse:

    The way he kisses dictators' butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uyghurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn't lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong Kongers, the United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership. The way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor. The ways I criticized President( Barack) Obama for that kind of spending I've criticized President Trump for as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He's flirted with White supremacists.

  5. Lauret Savoy:

    I’ve struggled to find a word that could hold in its meaning both the attack and my experience of it. The closest I found is this: ‘severe or excruciating pain or suffering (of body or mind); anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of such.’ This is a definition of torture, for four hours I experienced literal torture of body and of mind, not knowing if I would survive the next minute—yet needing to find some way to save my life.

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"literal." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 23 Mar. 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/literal>.

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    be present at (meetings, church services, university), etc.
    • A. attend
    • B. observe
    • C. conform
    • D. refine

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