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[vur-buh l] /ˈvɜr bəl/
of or relating to words:
verbal ability.
consisting of or in the form of words:
verbal imagery.
expressed in spoken words; oral rather than written:
verbal communication; verbal agreement.
consisting of or expressed in words (as opposed to actions):
a verbal protest.
pertaining to or concerned with words only (as opposed to ideas, facts, or realities):
a purely verbal distinction between two concepts.
corresponding word for word; verbatim:
a verbal translation.
using words:
verbal facility.
based on the use of words (as opposed to other activity):
a verbal score in a test; verbal IQ.
  1. of, relating to, or derived from a verb.
  2. used in a sentence as or like a verb, as participles and infinitives.
Grammar. a word, particularly a noun or adjective, derived from a verb.
Origin of verbal
1485-95; < Latin verbālis, equivalent to verb(um) word (see verb) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
verbally, adverb
interverbal, adjective
nonverbal, adjective
nonverbally, adverb
preverbal, adjective
subverbal, adjective
unverbal, adjective
unverbally, adverb
Can be confused
oral, verbal (see usage note at the current entry)
verbal, verbose.
3. spoken.
Usage note
3, 4. Verbal has had the meaning “spoken” since the late 16th century and is thus synonymous with oral: He wrote a memorandum to confirm the verbal agreement. Slightly earlier, verbal had developed the meaning “expressed in words, whether spoken or written (as opposed to actions)”: Verbal support is no help without money and supplies. Although some say that the use of verbal to mean “spoken” produces ambiguity, it rarely does so. Verbal is used in this sense in all varieties of speech and writing and is fully standard. The context usually makes the meaning clear: No documents are necessary; a verbal agreement (or contract or order) will suffice. Oral can be used instead of verbal if the context demands: My lawyer insists on a written contract because oral agreements are too difficult to enforce. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for verbal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In Chinese even they yield up their striking secrets of verbal metaphor.

    Instigations Ezra Pound
  • One by one, the district leaders made their verbal reports of activity.

    Final Weapon Everett B. Cole
  • The third hypothesis overrates feeling; the fourth, reason; the fifth, verbal instruction.

    Christianity and Greek Philosophy Benjamin Franklin Cocker
  • The pre- verbal (or pre-discursive) is immediate by its very nature.

  • This follows a verb or a verbal, but the verb of the clause introduced by like is regularly omitted.

    An English Grammar W. M. Baskervill and J. W. Sewell
British Dictionary definitions for verbal


of, relating to, or using words, esp as opposed to ideas, etc: merely verbal concessions
oral rather than written: a verbal agreement
verbatim; literal: an almost verbal copy
(grammar) of or relating to verbs or a verb
(grammar) another word for verbid
(pl) (slang) abuse or invective: new forms of on-field verbals
(pl) (slang) a criminal's admission of guilt on arrest
verb (transitive) -bals, -balling, -balled
(slang) (of the police) to implicate (someone) in a crime by quoting alleged admission of guilt in court
Derived Forms
verbally, adverb
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 verbal

late 15c., "dealing with words" (especially in contrast to things or realities), from Latin verbalis "consisting of words, relating to verbs," from verbum "word" (see verb). Verbal conditioning is recorded from 1954. Colloquial verbal diarrhea is recorded from 1823.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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