Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. In a literal manner; word for word: translated the Greek passage literally.
  • adv. In a literal or strict sense: Don't take my remarks literally.
  • adv. Usage Problem Really; actually: "There are people in the world who literally do not know how to boil water” ( Craig Claiborne).
  • adv. Usage Problem Used as an intensive before a figurative expression.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adv. word for word; not figuratively; not as an idiom or metaphor
  • adv. used non-literally as an intensifier for figurative statements: virtually (often considered incorrect; see usage notes)
  • adv. Used as a generic downtoner: just, merely.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adv. According to the primary and natural import of words; not figuratively.
  • adv. With close adherence to words; word by word.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In a literal manner or sense; according to the strict import of the word or words; exactly: as, the city was literally destroyed; the narrative is literally true.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. in a literal sense
  • adv. (intensifier before a figurative expression) without exaggeration

Etymologies

literal +‎ -ly (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The title literally translates as "Lord of Light".

    http://www.religionandspirituality.com

  • The original French title literally translates as "Howling Metal."

    Archive 2010-03-01

  • I think the name literally translates as 'big antlers' thanks to Gaelic Dictionaries Online.

    It's The Stag's Antlers

  • Simone, whose subtitle literally translates as "Why the West is not leaning to the Left".

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • The title literally translates into "Bush's estate is bankrupt across the board," but it can also be translated as "Bush's legacy is bankrupt across the board," as it is at

    The Moderate Voice

  • You know … my Father named me 'nina' which in Italian literally translates as 'little girl'

    lazy geisha

  • The Peruvian-Spanish-Chilean co-production, whose title literally translates as "The Frightened Tit" - an allusion to an indigenous belief that mothers pass their fear on to their children through their breast milk - won the Golden Bear for best picture in Berlin in February.

    IPS Inter Press Service

  • Her name literally translates as "The Female Scribe", and in later times she was regarded as a husband or sister of [[Thoth]].

    Conservapedia - Recent changes [en]

  • Besides, fittingly, the resort sits on the estate of the country's early kings - the name literally translates as "royal meadow", and horses were exercised here.

    Top stories from Times Online

  • In the China adverts, a smiling Hsu holds a little yellow chick up to her face above the slogan "vegetarians make chicks happy", though the wording in Chinese literally translates as "Love her, love vegetarianism".

    Moneycontrol Top Headlines

Comments

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  • "For my own part I felt myself so overwhelmed by the stroke that my heart literally died within me"
    c. 1790 http://bit.ly/152deMC

    You'll literally have to build a time machine, go back 220 years...

    August 28, 2013

  • This is literally the most misused word in the universe.

    August 28, 2013

  • I like that all of the examples above mention translation. I've been reading one of Plato's dialogues this week, and the translator's introduction talked about having to find a balance between translating things literally and allowing for modern phrasing (etc.).

    August 16, 2013

  • much like the Telegraph columnist, what I find most tiresome is criticism of this word's alleged misuse. It's such a low-hanging fruit, so easy to spot. But come on it happens all the time—let's also ticket everyone for not making complete stops at stop signs! 

    August 16, 2013

  • It's one of those words I now mentally edit out, reading glasses set to 'ignore' and all.

    August 16, 2013

  • So many comments about this one lately ... Stand Down, Semantics Nerds

    August 15, 2013

  • "There was a sad and melancholy cadence in her voice, corresponding with the strange and interesting romance of her situation. So young, so beautiful, so untaught, so much abandoned to herself, and deprived of all the support which her sex derives from the countenance and protection of female friends, and even of that degree of defence which arises from the forms with which the sex are approached in civilised life,—it is scarce metaphorical to say, that my heart bled for her."

    Sir Walter Scott, Rob Roy. Victorian "literally"!

    July 10, 2011

  • People using this word when they don't actually mean it makes me literally throw up. Bahaha.

    April 27, 2011

  • Cf. literal.

    June 24, 2009

  • “‘That guy I used to know, he’s gone,’ Mr. Biden said of Mr. McCain at the campaign event in Maumee, shaking his head. ‘It literally saddens me,’ added Mr. Biden, who tends to used the word ‘literally’ about a dozen times per speech (literally).�?

    The New York Times, Meanwhile, the Other No. 2 Keeps On Punching, by Mark Leibovich, September 19, 2008

    September 20, 2008

  • I rise in opposition to the tag "auto-antonym" being applied to this word. Good sirs and madams, I ask you: can we in good conscience allow "literally" to mean "figuratively"?

    Certainly the general public uses the word this way. And under most circumstances, I am all for following the general usage. In this case, though, I say that we must put up a fight. A fight, I tell you!

    If "literally" no longer means "literally", then what shall we use in its place? And even if suitable substitutes can be found, why should we allow ourselves to lose a perfectly good word in the first place?

    Fight the trend, good people. Refuse to define "literally" as "figuratively"! Posterity will thank you.

    May 24, 2008

  • Actually v. figuratively.

    May 24, 2008

  • I once heard a noted religious leader talk about people "literally kicking themselves out of the Church". Now that would be something to see!

    December 4, 2007

  • I think people might actually mean "practically", though I have no insight as to how this mix-up could have happened.

    October 31, 2007

  • http://literally.barelyfitz.com/

    May 24, 2007

  • I dunno, seems like the whole point of the word literally is to make it clear that you're not using hyperbole. At least, that was its original purpose. I think, if you have to outright TELL someone you're exaggerating, maybe you should practice your exaggeration a little more. It should be obvious without the label.

    May 24, 2007

  • When you use literally to mean figuratively, you are speaking hyperbolically.

    May 24, 2007

  • I support the founding of a coalition to bring the much-neglected but much-needed word "figuratively" back into proper use.

    May 23, 2007

  • No, you did not literally fly out of bed this morning.

    December 24, 2006