literally[lit′ər əl ē]
- Literally is defined as something that is actually true, or exactly what you are saying word for word.
An example of literally is when you say you actually received 100 letters in response to an article.
- word for word; not imaginatively, figuratively, or freely: to translate a passage literally
- actually; in fact [the house literally burned to the ground]: now often used as an intensive to modify a word or phrase that itself is being used figuratively [she literally flew into the room]: this latter usage is objected to by some
- In a literal manner; word for word: translated the Greek passage literally.
- In a literal or strict sense: Don't take my remarks literally.
- Usage Problem a. Really; actually: “There are people in the world who literally do not know how to boil water” (Craig Claiborne).b. Used as an intensive before a figurative expression.
- (speech act) word for word; not figuratively; not as an idiom or metaphor
- When I saw on the news that there would be no school tomorrow because of the snowstorm, I literally jumped for joy, and hit my head on the ceiling fan.
- (degree, proscribed) used non-literally as an intensifier for figurative statements: virtually (often considered incorrect; see usage notes)
- (colloquial) Used as a generic downtoner: just, merely.
- You literally put it in the microwave for five minutes and it's done.
"Literally" is the opposite of "figuratively", so many authorities object to the use of literally as an intensifier for figurative statements. For example "you literally become the ball", by the primary sense, would mean actually transforming into a spherical object, while it is likely that the speaker means "figuratively" and is using literally as an intensifier. However, this type of usage is common in non-formal speech: "she was literally in floods of tears".
- (not metaphorically): figuratively, metaphorically, virtually