[ree-uh l, reel]



Informal. very or extremely: You did a real nice job painting the house.


the real,
  1. something that actually exists, as a particular quantity.
  2. reality in general.


    for real, Informal.
    1. in reality; actually: You mean she dyed her hair green for real?
    2. real; actual: The company's plans to relocate are for real.
    3. genuine; sincere: I don't believe his friendly attitude is for real.

Origin of real

1400–50; late Middle English < Late Latin reālis, equivalent to Latin re-, variant stem of rēs thing + -ālis -al1
Related formsre·al·ness, noun

Synonym study

1–5. Real, actual, true in general use describe objects, persons, experiences, etc., that are what they are said or purport to be. That which is described as real is genuine as opposed to counterfeit, false, or merely supposed: a real emerald; real leather binding; My real ambition is to be a dentist. Actual usually stresses contrast with another state of affairs that has been proposed or suggested: The actual cost is much less; to conceal one's actual motive. True implies a perfect correspondence with actuality and is in direct contrast to that which is false or inaccurate: a true account of the events; not bravado but true courage. See also authentic.

Usage note

The intensifying adverb real, meaning “very,” is informal and limited to speech or to written representations of speech: He drives a real beat-up old car. The adjective real meaning “true, actual, genuine, etc.,” is standard in all types of speech and writing: Their real reasons for objecting became clear in the discussion. The informal adjective sense “absolute, complete” is also limited to speech or representations of speech: These interruptions are a real bother.


[rey-ahl; Spanish re-ahl]

noun, plural re·als [rey-ahlz] /reɪˈɑlz/, Spanish re·a·les [re-ah-les] /rɛˈɑ lɛs/.

a former silver coin of Spain and Spanish America, the eighth part of a peso.

Origin of real

1605–15; < Spanish: royal < Latin rēgālis regal1


[rey-ahl; Portuguese re-ahl]


singular of reis.


[reys; Portuguese reys]

plural noun, singular re·al [rey-ahl; Portuguese re-ahl] /reɪˈɑl; Portuguese rɛˈɑl/.

a former money of account of Portugal and Brazil.
Compare milreis.

Origin of reis

1545–55; < Portuguese, plural of real real2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for real

Contemporary Examples of real

Historical Examples of real

  • May the powers that guide our destiny, preserve you from any real cause for shame.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Now he, being a real likable man of a man, can I do that—for money?

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • And do women who sell themselves ever find any real pleasure in the bargain?

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • But in the end this period of suffering proved a real blessing.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • As Mr. Sanborn says of her, "she is too real a person, not to be true."

British Dictionary definitions for real




existing or occurring in the physical world; not imaginary, fictitious, or theoretical; actual
(prenominal) true; actual; not falsethe real reason
(prenominal) deserving the name; rightly so calleda real friend; a real woman
not artificial or simulated; genuinereal sympathy; real fur
(of food, etc) traditionally made and having a distinct flavourreal ale; real cheese
philosophy existent or relating to actual existence (as opposed to nonexistent, potential, contingent, or apparent)
(prenominal) economics (of prices, incomes, wages, etc) considered in terms of purchasing power rather than nominal currency value
(prenominal) denoting or relating to immovable property such as land and tenementsreal property Compare personal
physics Compare image (def. 2)
maths involving or containing real numbers alone; having no imaginary part
  1. (of the answer in a fugue) preserving the intervals as they appear in the subject
  2. denoting a fugue as having such an answerCompare tonal (def. 3)
informal (intensifier)a real fool; a real genius
the real thing the genuine article, not an inferior or mistaken substitute


short for real number
the real that which exists in fact; reality
for real slang not as a test or trial; in earnest
Derived Formsrealness, noun

Word Origin for real

C15: from Old French réel, from Late Latin reālis, from Latin rēs thing



noun plural reals or reales (Spanish reˈales)

a former small Spanish or Spanish-American silver coin

Word Origin for real

C17: from Spanish, literally: royal, from Latin rēgālis; see regal 1



noun plural reis (rəjʃ)

the standard monetary unit of Brazil, divided into 100 centavos
a former coin of Portugal

Word Origin for real

ultimately from Latin rēgālis regal 1
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 real

early 14c., "actually existing, true;" mid-15c., "relating to things" (especially property), from Old French reel "real, actual," from Late Latin realis "actual," in Medieval Latin "belonging to the thing itself," from Latin res "matter, thing," of uncertain origin. Meaning "genuine" is recorded from 1550s; sense of "unaffected, no-nonsense" is from 1847.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. [Margery Williams, "The Velveteen Rabbit"]

Real estate is first recorded 1660s and retains the oldest English sense of the word. Noun phrase real time is early 19c. as a term in logic and philosophy, 1953 as an adjectival phrase; get real, usually an interjection, was U.S. college slang in 1960s, reached wide popularity c.1987.


"small Spanish silver coin," 1580s, from Spanish real, noun use of real (adj.) "regal," from Latin regalis "regal" (see regal). Especially in reference to the real de plata, which circulated in the U.S. till c.1850 and in Mexico until 1897. The same word was used in Middle English in reference to various coins, from Old French real, cognate of the Spanish word.

The old system of reckoning by shillings and pence is continued by retail dealers generally; and will continue, as long as the Spanish coins remain in circulation. [Bartlett, "Dictionary of Americanisms," 1848]

He adds that, due to different exchange rates of metal to paper money in the different states, the Spanish money had varying names from place to place. The Spanish real of one-eighth of a dollar or 12 and a half cents was a ninepence in New England, one shilling in New York, elevenpence or a levy in Pennsylvania, "and in many of the Southern States, a bit." The half-real was in New York a sixpence, in New England a fourpence, in Pennsylvania a fip, in the South a picayune.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with real


In addition to the idiom beginning with real

  • real McCoy, the

also see:

  • for real
  • get real
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.