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[vur-choo-uh l] /ˈvɜr tʃu əl/
being such in power, force, or effect, though not actually or expressly such:
a virtual dependence on charity.
  1. noting an image formed by the apparent convergence of rays geometrically, but not actually, prolonged, as the image formed by a mirror (opposed to real).
  2. noting a focus of a system forming virtual images.
temporarily simulated or extended by computer software:
a virtual disk in RAM; virtual memory on a hard disk.
Origin of virtual
1350-1400; Middle English < Medieval Latin virtuālis, equivalent to Latin virtu(s) virtue + -ālis -al1
Related forms
virtuality, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for virtual
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He requires, too, the virtual abdication of our ruling house.

    The Destroyer Burton Egbert Stevenson
  • Not since she had become the virtual creatrix of beauty, even the giver of life!


    Stephen French Whitman
  • All the American press is not founded upon this system of virtual blackmail.

  • Some say the South, if defeated, will be held in virtual slavery by the North.

    Young Captain Jack

    Horatio Alger and Arthur M. Winfield
  • This retreat was a virtual resignation of their towering hopes.

    Waverley Sir Walter Scott
British Dictionary definitions for virtual


having the essence or effect but not the appearance or form of: a virtual revolution
(physics) being, relating to, or involving a virtual image: a virtual focus
(computing) of or relating to virtual storage: virtual memory
of or relating to a computer technique by which a person, wearing a headset or mask, has the experience of being in an environment created by the computer, and of interacting with and causing changes in it
(rare) capable of producing an effect through inherent power or virtue
(physics) designating or relating to a particle exchanged between other particles that are interacting by a field of force: a virtual photon See also exchange force
Word Origin
C14: from Medieval Latin virtuālis effective, from Latin virtūsvirtue
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 virtual

late 14c., "influencing by physical virtues or capabilities," from Medieval Latin virtualis, from Latin virtus "excellence, potency, efficacy," literally "manliness, manhood" (see virtue). The meaning of "being something in essence or fact, though not in name" is first recorded 1650s, probably via sense of "capable of producing a certain effect" (early 15c.). Computer sense of "not physically existing but made to appear by software" is attested from 1959.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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