literal

[lit-er-uhl]

adjective

noun

a typographical error, especially involving a single letter.

Origin of literal

1350–1400; Middle English < Late Latin litterālis “of letters.” See letter1, -al1
Related formslit·er·al·ness, nounnon·lit·er·al, adjectivenon·lit·er·al·ly, adverbnon·lit·er·al·ness, nouno·ver·lit·er·al, adjectiveun·lit·er·al, adjectiveun·lit·er·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedliteral littoral

Synonyms for literal

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019


Examples from the Web for literal

Contemporary Examples of literal

Historical Examples of literal

  • No one will claim that it is used in its literal sense of "seed," in the text.

  • This lyrical vision restores it, whole, complete, and literal.

  • This literal quotation from the frank Mr. Calvin caused a sensation.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • His statement concerning Mrs. Black was not the literal truth.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • And this remark, intended to be facetious, was after all pretty close to the literal truth.

    Shavings

    Joseph C. Lincoln


British Dictionary definitions for literal

literal

adjective

in exact accordance with or limited to the primary or explicit meaning of a word or text
word for word
dull, factual, or prosaic
consisting of, concerning, or indicated by letters
true; actual
maths containing or using coefficients and constants represented by letters: ax² + b is a literal expressionCompare numerical (def. 3a)

noun

Also called: literal error a misprint or misspelling in a text
Derived Formsliteralness or literality (ˌlɪtəˈrælɪtɪ), noun

Word Origin for literal

C14: from Late Latin litterālis concerning letters, from Latin littera 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

Word Origin and History for literal
adj.

late 14c., "taking words in their natural meaning" (originally in reference to Scripture and opposed to mystical or allegorical), from Old French literal and directly from Late Latin literalis/litteralis "of or belonging to letters or writing," from Latin litera/littera "letter, alphabetic sign; literature, books" (see letter (n.1)). Meaning "of or pertaining to alphabetic letters" is from late 15c. Sense of "verbally exact" is attested from 1590s, as is application to the primary sense of a word or passage. Literal-minded is attested from 1791.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper