- The definition of literal is a translation that strictly follows the exact words.
An example of literal is the belief that the world was created in exactly six days with the seventh day devoted to rest, as per Genesis in the Bible.
- of, involving, or expressed by a letter or letters of the alphabet: literal notation
- following or representing the exact words of the original; word-for-word: a literal translation
- based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning; not figurative or symbolic: the literal meaning of a passage
- giving the actual denotation of the word: said of the senses of words
- giving the original or earlier meaning of a word; etymological: the literal meaning of ponder is “to weigh”
- habitually interpreting statements or words according to their actual denotation; prosaic; matter-of-fact: a literal mind
- having a literal mind; lacking imagination
- real; not going beyond the actual facts; accurate; unvarnished: the literal truth
- being so in fact but not in name; virtual: the chairperson is a literal dictator
Origin of literalMiddle English litterall ; from Middle French litteral ; from Late Latin litteralis ; from Classical Latin littera, letter
- Conforming or limited to the simplest, nonfigurative, or most obvious meaning of a word or words.
- Word for word; verbatim: a literal translation.
- Avoiding exaggeration, metaphor, or embellishment; factual; prosaic: a literal description; a literal mind.
- Consisting of, using, or expressed by letters: literal notation.
Origin of literalMiddle English, from Old French, from Late Latin litterālis, of letters, from Latin littera, lītera, letter; see letter.
(comparative more literal, superlative most literal)
- 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.
- 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.
- (uncommon) Consisting of, or expressed by, letters.
- a literal equation
- (of a person) Giving a strict or literal construction; unimaginative; matter-of-fact.
- (exactly as stated): figurative
literal - Computer Definition
In programming, any data written into the program that remains unchanged when translated into machine language. Examples are values used for calculations as well as text messages displayed on screen. In the following lines of code, the literals are 1 and the value is one. See string literal and numeric literal. if x = 1 print "the value is one" endif