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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.

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literalapparel, barrel, carol, Carole, carrel, Carroll, Darrell, Darryl, Farrell •gambrel • spandrel •astral, plastral •cracker-barrel •Errol, feral •petrel, petrol •spectral •central, epicentral, ventral •ancestral, kestrel, orchestral •dextral • Sacheverell • mayoral •sacral • wastrel • cerebral •anhedral, cathedral, dihedral, tetrahedral •hypaethral (US hypethral), urethral •squirrel, Tyrol, Wirral •timbrel, whimbrel •minstrel • arbitral • sinistral • integral •triumviral •spiral, viral •amoral, Balmoral, coral, immoral, laurel, moral, quarrel, sorel, sorrel •cockerel, Cockerell •dotterel • rostral •aboral, aural, choral, floral, goral, oral •austral, claustral •scoundrel • cloistral • neutral • figural •augural •demurral, Durrell •mongrel • sepulchral • lustral •spheral • retiral •crural, jural, mural, neural, plural, rural •illiberal, liberal •natural • federal • peripheral •doggerel • mackerel • pickerel •bicameral, unicameral •admiral •ephemeral, femoral •humeral, numeral •general • mineral • funeral •spatio-temporal, temporal •corporal • tesseral • visceral •bilateral, collateral, equilateral, lateral, multilateral, quadrilateral, trilateral, unilateral •pastoral •electoral, pectoral, prefectoral, protectoral •clitoral, literal, littoral, presbyteral •dipteral, peripteral •doctoral • several • behavioural •conferral, deferral, referral, transferral

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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).

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literal pert. to a letter or letters. XIV. — (O)F. litéral or late L. lit(t)erālis, f. lit(t)era LETTER; see -AL1.
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.

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literal A word or symbol in a program that stands for itself rather than as a name for something else, i.e. an object whose value is determined by its denotation. Numbers are literals; if other symbols are used as literals it is necessary to use some form of quoting mechanism to distinguish them from variables.

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