- in the literal or strict sense: She failed to grasp the metaphor and interpreted the poem literally. What does the word mean literally?
- in a literal manner; word for word: to translate literally.
- actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy: The city was literally destroyed.
- in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually: I literally died when she walked out on stage in that costume.
Origin of literally
Examples from the Web for literally
He was then literally slapped around by the high priest, who pulled on his ears in an effort to produce tears.New Year’s Eve, Babylon Style
December 31, 2014
“He literally went underground to hold services,” Moscow-based dissident and journalist Victor Davidoff said in an email.Remembering the Russian Priest Who Fought the Orthodox Church
December 28, 2014
But once Kanye came along, Kim had to literally clean out her closet.Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s Balmain Campaign: High Fashion Meets Low Culture
December 23, 2014
According to a police source, that fax came in at 2:46 p.m.—literally a after before the fatal bullets flew.Alleged Cop Killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley Had a Death Wish
December 22, 2014
In a dramatic twist on mistletoe reproduction, their seeds explode, literally.Mistletoe is the Vampire of Plants
December 21, 2014
And in the fulness of time it literally with us so came about.'Tis Sixty Years Since
Charles Francis Adams
Rank after rank in succession appeared: literally thousands.The Leopard Woman
Stewart Edward White
I wish it understood, that this is literally my own story, logged by my old shipmate.Ned Myers
James Fenimore Cooper
In this way it might be literally possible 'to hear a shadow fall athwart the stillness.'Heroes of the Telegraph
As to your guess, if I answered it literally, I should answer no.Little Dorrit
- in a literal manner
- (intensifier)there were literally thousands of people
Word Origin and History for literally
1530s, "in a literal sense," from literal + -ly (2). Erroneously used in reference to metaphors, hyperbole, etc., even by writers like Dryden and Pope, to indicate "what follows must be taken in the strongest admissible sense" (1680s), which is opposite to the word's real meaning and a long step down the path to the modern misuse of it.
We have come to such a pass with this emphasizer that where the truth would require us to insert with a strong expression 'not literally, of course, but in a manner of speaking', we do not hesitate to insert the very word we ought to be at pains to repudiate; ... such false coin makes honest traffic in words impossible. [Fowler, 1924]