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  1. of or relating to words: verbal ability.
  2. consisting of or in the form of words: verbal imagery.
  3. expressed in spoken words; oral rather than written: verbal communication; verbal agreement.
  4. consisting of or expressed in words (as opposed to actions): a verbal protest.
  5. pertaining to or concerned with words only (as opposed to ideas, facts, or realities): a purely verbal distinction between two concepts.
  6. corresponding word for word; verbatim: a verbal translation.
  7. using words: verbal facility.
  8. based on the use of words (as opposed to other activity): a verbal score in a test; verbal IQ.
  9. Grammar.
    1. of, relating to, or derived from a verb.
    2. used in a sentence as or like a verb, as participles and infinitives.
  1. Grammar. a word, particularly a noun or adjective, derived from a verb.

Origin of verbal

1485–95; < Latin verbālis, equivalent to verb(um) word (see verb) + -ālis -al1
Related formsver·bal·ly, adverbin·ter·ver·bal, adjectivenon·ver·bal, adjectivenon·ver·bal·ly, adverbpre·ver·bal, adjectivesub·ver·bal, adjectiveun·ver·bal, adjectiveun·ver·bal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedoral verbal (see usage note at the current entry)verbal verbose

Synonyms for verbal

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3. spoken.

Usage note

3, 4. Verbal has had the meaning “spoken” since the late 16th century and is thus synonymous with oral: He wrote a memorandum to confirm the verbal agreement. Slightly earlier, verbal had developed the meaning “expressed in words, whether spoken or written (as opposed to actions)”: Verbal support is no help without money and supplies. Although some say that the use of verbal to mean “spoken” produces ambiguity, it rarely does so. Verbal is used in this sense in all varieties of speech and writing and is fully standard. The context usually makes the meaning clear: No documents are necessary; a verbal agreement (or contract or order ) will suffice. Oral can be used instead of verbal if the context demands: My lawyer insists on a written contract because oral agreements are too difficult to enforce. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for verbal

Contemporary Examples of verbal

Historical Examples of verbal

British Dictionary definitions for verbal


  1. of, relating to, or using words, esp as opposed to ideas, etcmerely verbal concessions
  2. oral rather than writtena verbal agreement
  3. verbatim; literalan almost verbal copy
  4. grammar of or relating to verbs or a verb
  1. grammar another word for verbid
  2. (plural) slang abuse or invectivenew forms of on-field verbals
  3. (plural) slang a criminal's admission of guilt on arrest
verb -bals, -balling or -balled (tr)
  1. slang (of the police) to implicate (someone) in a crime by quoting alleged admission of guilt in court
Derived Formsverbally, 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

Word Origin and History for verbal

late 15c., "dealing with words" (especially in contrast to things or realities), from Latin verbalis "consisting of words, relating to verbs," from verbum "word" (see verb). Verbal conditioning is recorded from 1954. Colloquial verbal diarrhea is recorded from 1823.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper