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[lit-uh-rer-ee] /ˈlɪt əˌrɛr i/
pertaining to or of the nature of books and writings, especially those classed as literature:
literary history.
pertaining to authorship:
literary style.
versed in or acquainted with literature; well-read.
engaged in or having the profession of literature or writing:
a literary man.
characterized by an excessive or affected display of learning; stilted; pedantic.
preferring books to actual experience; bookish.
Origin of literary
1640-50; < Latin līterārius, litterārius of reading and writing. See letter1, -ary
Related forms
literarily, adverb
literariness, noun
nonliterarily, adverb
nonliterarilyness, noun
nonliterariness, noun
nonliterary, adjective
overliterarily, adverb
overliterariness, noun
overliterary, adjective
preliterary, adjective
pseudoliterary, adjective
quasi-literary, adjective
unliterary, adjective
Usage note
In this dictionary, the label Literary is assigned to an entry term or definition that is used rarely in contemporary speech or writing except to create a literary, poetic, or evocative effect. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for unliterary
Historical Examples
  • Of all the literary men I have known he was the most unliterary in his make and manner.

    Literary Friends And Acquaintances William Dean Howells
  • He had been reared in an environment as unliterary as Mark Twain's.

  • Of their doings (unliterary) some account will be found in the preceding pages.

    Abbotsford W. S. Crockett
  • The unliterary words were ejected, it seemed, by a demon within.

    Angela's Business Henry Sydnor Harrison
  • My unliterary environment has doubtless been best suited to me.

    Rambles with John Burroughs Robert John De Loach
  • But on the whole I wouldn't seriously object to the adjective "unliterary."

    Books and Persons Arnold Bennett
  • She answered that it was very silly and unliterary—she had acquired that word—to judge a book by what it was called.

    Cynthia Leonard Merrick
  • Yet not the faintest idea of story-writing crossed the clear sky of my unliterary imagination.

  • There seems to be such an extraordinary quantity of clever, talented, ignorant, unliterary literature let (p. 329) loose in them.

    The Life of Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson Nellie van De Grift Sanchez
  • He is not now (as was once often the case) a retired clergyman, or a specialist recruited from some unliterary field.

British Dictionary definitions for unliterary


/ˈlɪtərərɪ; ˈlɪtrərɪ/
of, relating to, concerned with, or characteristic of literature or scholarly writing: a literary discussion, a literary style
versed in or knowledgeable about literature: a literary man
(of a word) formal; not colloquial
Derived Forms
literarily, adverb
literariness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin litterārius concerning reading and writing. See letter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for unliterary



1640s, "pertaining to alphabet letters," from French littéraire, from Latin literarius/litterarius "belonging to letters or learning," from littera/litera "letter" (see letter (n.1)). Meaning "pertaining to literature" is attested from 1737.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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