- in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.
- following the words of the original very closely and exactly: a literal translation of Goethe.
- true to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual: a literal description of conditions.
- being actually such, without exaggeration or inaccuracy: the literal extermination of a city.
- (of persons) tending to construe words in the strict sense or in an unimaginative way; matter-of-fact; prosaic.
- of or relating to the letters of the alphabet.
- of the nature of letters.
- expressed by letters.
- affecting a letter or letters: a literal error.
- a typographical error, especially involving a single letter.
Origin of literal
SynonymsSee more synonyms for literal on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for literalness
Every touch is delightful—although all is literal the literalness is all humour.Pickwickian Studies
But it is perhaps better for avoiding the Charybdis of literalness.Contemporary American Composers
What are the teachings of the Church regarding the literalness of the resurrection?The Articles of Faith
James E. Talmage
A gospel it is, in all literalness; an evangel; a message of glad tidings.God and Mr. Wells
The Biblical descriptions of heaven she accepted in all their literalness.Mrs. Bindle
- 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)
- Also called: literal error a misprint or misspelling in a text
Word Origin and History for literalness
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.