lit·er·al / ˈlitərəl; ˈlitrəl/ • adj. 1. taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory: dreadful in its literal sense, full of dread. ∎ free from exaggeration or distortion: you shouldn't take this as a literal record of events. ∎ inf. absolute (used to emphasize that a strong expression is deliberately chosen to convey one's feelings): fifteen years of literal hell.2. (of a translation) representing the exact words of the original text. ∎ (of a visual representation) exactly copied; realistic as opposed to abstract or impressionistic.3. (also literal-minded) (of a person or performance) lacking imagination; prosaic.4. of, in, or expressed by a letter or the letters of the alphabet: literal mnemonics.DERIVATIVES: lit·er·al·i·ty / ˌlitəˈralətē/ lit·er·al·ize / -ˌlīz/ v. lit·er·al·ness n.
1. A term traditionally opposed to figurative and metaphorical. Although it is generally unrelated to LETTERS, LITERACY, and LITERATURE, it suggests the influence of the letter as a measure of strictness and rightness: the literal truth is seen as being true in a basic and absolute way. If something is done literally, a person follows instructions ‘to the letter’, without flexibility or imagination. Paradoxically, however, the adverb literally is often used to mean figuratively: ‘And with his eyes he literally scoured the corners of the cell’ ( Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading, 1960). See FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE.
2. A term in proof-reading for a misprint such as the substitution of one letter for another, the omission or addition of a letter, or letters transposed (for example, parodixical, responsiblity, assumed, phenonemon, prniter).
So literary XVII. — L. literate educated, learned XV; literary. XVII. — L. literature polite learning XIV; literary work XVIII. — (partly through F. littérature) L. lit(t)erātūra (coll.) alphabetic letters, grammar, learning. literatim letter by letter. XVII. — medL.