[ awr-uhl ]
See synonyms for oral on Thesaurus.com
  1. uttered by the mouth; spoken: oral testimony.

  2. of, using, or transmitted by speech: oral methods of language teaching; oral traditions.

  1. of, relating to, or involving the mouth: the oral cavity.

  2. done, taken, or administered through the mouth: an oral dose of medicine.

  3. Phonetics. articulated with none of the voice issuing through the nose, as the normal English vowels and the consonants b and v.

  4. Psychoanalysis.

    • of or relating to the earliest phase of infantile psychosexual development, lasting from birth to one year of age or longer, during which pleasure is obtained from eating, sucking, and biting.

    • of or relating to the sublimation of feelings experienced during the oral stage of childhood: oral anxiety.

    • of or relating to gratification by stimulation of the lips or membranes of the mouth, as in sucking, eating, or talking

  5. Zoology. pertaining to that surface of polyps and marine animals that contains the mouth and tentacles.

  1. an oral examination in a school, college, or university, given especially to a candidate for an advanced degree.

Origin of oral

First recorded in 1615–25; from Latin ōr- (stem of ōs ) “mouth” (cognate with Sanskrit āsya ) + -al1

usage note For oral

1. See verbal.

Other words from oral

  • o·ral·i·ty, noun
  • o·ral·ly, adverb
  • non·o·ral, adjective
  • post·o·ral, adjective
  • sub·o·ral, adjective
  • un·o·ral, adjective

Words that may be confused with oral

Words Nearby oral

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use oral in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for oral


/ (ˈɔːrəl, ˈɒrəl) /

  1. spoken or verbal: an oral agreement

  2. relating to, affecting, or for use in the mouth: an oral thermometer

  1. of or relating to the surface of an animal, such as a jellyfish, on which the mouth is situated

  2. denoting a drug to be taken by mouth: an oral contraceptive Compare parenteral

  3. of, relating to, or using spoken words

  4. phonetics pronounced with the soft palate in a raised position completely closing the nasal cavity and allowing air to pass out only through the mouth

  5. psychoanal

    • relating to a stage of psychosexual development during which the child's interest is concentrated on the mouth

    • denoting personality traits, such as dependence, selfishness, and aggression, resulting from fixation at the oral stage: Compare anal (def. 2), genital (def. 2), phallic (def. 2)

  1. an examination in which the questions and answers are spoken rather than written

Origin of oral

C17: from Late Latin orālis, from Latin ōs face

Derived forms of oral

  • orally, adverb

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

Scientific definitions for oral


[ ôrəl ]

  1. Relating to or involving the mouth.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.