[ vur-choo-uhl ]
/ ˈvɜr tʃu əl /
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See synonyms for: virtual / virtuality on Thesaurus.com

being such in power, force, or effect, though not actually or expressly such: a virtual dependence on charity.
  1. noting an image formed by the apparent convergence of rays geometrically, but not actually, prolonged, as the image formed by a mirror (opposed to real).
  2. noting a focus of a system forming virtual images.
temporarily simulated or extended by computer software: a virtual disk in RAM;virtual storage on a hard disk;a 3D virtual world.
existing, seen, or happening online or on a computer screen, rather than in person or in the physical world: You can take a virtual tour of the museum before your visit.I've started working out with a virtual personal trainer.Even with a robust multimedia curriculum, some students struggle with virtual learning and are better served in a face-to-face classroom.
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Origin of virtual

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Medieval Latin virtuālis, equivalent to Latin virtu(s) “maleness, worth” + -ālis adjective suffix; see virtue, -al1


vir·tu·al·i·ty [vur-choo-al-i-tee], /ˌvɜr tʃuˈæl ɪ ti/, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does virtual mean?

Virtual is most generally used to describe something as being the same as something else in almost every way, except perhaps in name or some other minor, technical sense.

For example, describing a company as a virtual monopoly means it’s pretty much a monopoly but not technically one, perhaps because it has a few minor competitors.

Virtual also commonly means simulated or extended by computer software. The word is used this way in virtual reality, which refers to a fully simulated environment. Some things described as virtual may not be quite as immersive as virtual reality, such as a virtual museum tour that you can navigate on a website.

Sometimes, things described as virtual may not involve simulation at all, such as a virtual meeting or a virtual concert. The use of virtual in these phrases represents a more recent sense of the word that means something like “remote and via the internet” (especially when accessed via a live video feed).

The adverb form virtually can be used in the same way, as in I can’t make it into the office, but I’ll be working virtually. 

Virtually is perhaps most commonly used in a more general way to mean in effect though not in fact, as in Today, virtually all cell phones are smartphones. Close synonyms are nearly, practically, and just about—they all mean virtually the same thing.

Example: The virtual convention will feature real speeches from virtually every VR expert in the industry.

Where does virtual come from?

The first records of the word virtual come from around 1400. It comes from the Medieval Latin virtuālis, meaning “effective” (in the sense of having the effect of something without the form or appearance of it).

The various senses of virtual are quite different, but they all involve something that’s not quite the real thing. Most generally, virtual is used to describe things as almost identical to but not exactly something else. The adverb virtually is perhaps most commonly used to describe things in this way.

The more specific use of virtual often involves computer simulations, as in virtual reality and virtual rendering. More recently, virtual has come to be used to describe things that aren’t simulations but real things that can be experienced in a remote location in some way, often via a live video feed.

This is how virtual is most commonly used in the term virtual school, which refers to an educational program that takes place in a virtual environment. Though it usually takes place on a computer screen, virtual school can take different forms. It may consist of a conventional classroom scenario simply moved online in the form of a live, two-way video stream in which a teacher and their students can interact in real time. It can also consist of a less interactive model, in which students can access educational materials through a computer interface, often with occasional communication with an instructor. Or it can be a blend of these approaches. Virtual school can also refer to a specific school that provides instruction using such programs, as in My daughter attends a virtual school.

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How is virtual used in real life?

Virtual can be used in several ways, but all of them describe something that’s not quite the real thing.




Try using virtual!

Is virtual used correctly in the following sentence?

I find that virtual concerts don’t have the same energy as a show with a live audience.

How to use virtual in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for virtual

/ (ˈvɜːtʃʊəl) /

having the essence or effect but not the appearance or form ofa virtual revolution
physics being, relating to, or involving a virtual imagea virtual focus
computing of or relating to virtual storagevirtual memory
of or relating to a computer technique by which a person, wearing a headset or mask, has the experience of being in an environment created by the computer, and of interacting with and causing changes in it
rare capable of producing an effect through inherent power or virtue
physics designating or relating to a particle exchanged between other particles that are interacting by a field of forcea virtual photon See also exchange force

Word Origin for virtual

C14: from Medieval Latin virtuālis effective, from Latin virtūs virtue
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