View synonyms for literally


[ lit-er-uh-lee ]


  1. in the literal or strict sense:

    She failed to grasp the metaphor and interpreted the poem literally.

    What does the word mean literally?

  2. in a literal manner; word for word:

    to translate literally.

  3. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy:

    The city was literally destroyed.

  4. in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually:

    I literally died when she walked out on stage in that costume.


/ ˈlɪtərəlɪ /


  1. in a literal manner
  2. (intensifier)

    there were literally thousands of people

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Usage Note

Since the early 19th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning “in effect, virtually,” a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning “actually, without exaggeration”: The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries. The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise. The use is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited writing. Although this use of literally irritates some, it probably neither distorts nor enhances the intended meaning of the sentences in which it occurs. The same might often be said of the use of literally in its earlier sense “actually”: The garrison was literally wiped out: no one survived.

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The use of literally as an intensifier is common, esp in informal contexts. In some cases, it provides emphasis without adding to the meaning: the house was literally only five minutes walk away. Often, however, its use results in absurdity: the news was literally an eye-opener to me. It is therefore best avoided in formal contexts

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Word History and Origins

Origin of literally1

First recorded in 1525–35; literal + -ly

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Example Sentences

It was so easy to target and literally harass our community.

Officials seldom step in to stop a fight unless one participant is being pounded into a vegetable or until the fighters bring the action literally down to the ice.

It’s going to literally take years to see the effects of this time on the industry.

From Digiday

Google’s latest announcement took the weight off nofollow links—quite literally.

It not only represents another way to improve UX and conversions but literally shows us what’s missing in our content strategy and product range.

He was then literally slapped around by the high priest, who pulled on his ears in an effort to produce tears.

There was poop humor—literally—when Valerie's house becomes flooded with fecal matter after a pipe bursts.

“He literally went underground to hold services,” Moscow-based dissident and journalist Victor Davidoff said in an email.

So for the 12 years he spent at Aldgate, Chaucer was mostly alone, with a teeming urban scene literally beneath his feet.

But once Kanye came along, Kim had to literally clean out her closet.

“You appear to feel it so,” rejoined Mr. Pickwick, smiling at the clerk, who was literally red-hot.

As I write dead quiet reigns on the Peninsula, literally dead quiet.

In a moment more Phœbe and Alice were at the door which admits to a passage leading literally to the side of the house.

First,—unless we get between the Divisional Generals and the enemy, there is literally no room!

On either side the carnage had been terrible, and the pathways of the village were literally choked with the dead.