View synonyms for literary


[ lit-uh-rer-ee ]


  1. pertaining to or of the nature of books and writings, especially those classed as literature:

    literary history.

  2. pertaining to authorship:

    literary style.

  3. versed in or acquainted with literature; well-read.
  4. engaged in or having the profession of literature or writing:

    a literary man.

  5. characterized by an excessive or affected display of learning; stilted; pedantic.
  6. preferring books to actual experience; bookish.


/ ˈlɪtrərɪ; ˈlɪtərərɪ /


  1. of, relating to, concerned with, or characteristic of literature or scholarly writing

    a literary style

    a literary discussion

  2. versed in or knowledgeable about literature

    a literary man

  3. (of a word) formal; not colloquial
“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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Usage Note

In this dictionary, the label Literary is assigned to an entry term or definition that is used rarely in contemporary speech or writing except to create a literary, poetic, or evocative effect.
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Derived Forms

  • ˈliterariness, noun
  • ˈliterarily, adverb
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Other Words From

  • liter·ari·ly adverb
  • liter·ari·ness noun
  • non·liter·ari·ly adverb
  • non·liter·ari·ly·ness noun
  • non·liter·ari·ness noun
  • non·liter·ary adjective
  • over·liter·ari·ly adverb
  • over·liter·ari·ness noun
  • over·liter·ary adjective
  • pre·liter·ary adjective
  • pseudo·liter·ary adjective
  • quasi-liter·ary adjective
  • un·liter·ary adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of literary1

1640–50; < Latin līterārius, litterārius of reading and writing. See letter 1, -ary
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Word History and Origins

Origin of literary1

C17: from Latin litterārius concerning reading and writing. See letter
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Example Sentences

Steve Erickson is the author of 10 novels including Shadowbahn, Zeroville, These Dreams of You and Our Ecstatic Days—as well as two works of literary non-fiction about politics and culture—that have been translated into 11 languages.

There, he determined to relaunch his stalled literary career.

We could also use a literary culture that nurtures more writers the way it has Duchovny.

Her debut poetry volume is expected in September, her first picture book is on the way, and she has several other literary projects cooking.

From Fortune

Much as I value serious literary fiction, I find reading it to be exceptionally draining.

From this attitude he draws a singular comic and literary power.

Lacey Noonan's A Gronking to Remember makes 50 Shades of Grey look like Madame Bovary in terms of its literary sophistication.

The goal is to create a literary anatomy of the last century—or, to be precise, from 1900 to 2014.

To reclaim it, he had to move beyond established conventions about how a literary career should be conducted.

A new book from Mallory Ortberg imagines what literary legends including King Lear and Jane Eyre would have texted.

Louis Petit de Bachaumon died; a native of Paris, known as the author of several literary works.

It was strenuously opposed by all possible means, governmental, legislative, and literary.

Samuel Badcock, an English divine and writer, died; admired as a pulpit orator and a man of literary talent.

She was a woman of great intellectual endowment, with highly cultivated literary tastes.

Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, died; an English statesman and literary character.


Related Words




literal-mindedliterary agent