from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adverb In a high degree; extremely.
  • adverb Truly; absolutely.
  • adverb Used in titles.
  • adjective Complete; absolute.
  • adjective Being the same; identical.
  • adjective Being particularly suitable or appropriate.
  • adjective Used to emphasize the importance of what is specified.
  • adjective Being nothing more than what is specified; mere.
  • adjective Archaic Genuine; true.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • True; real; actual; veritable: now used chiefly in an intensive sense, or to emphasize the identity of a thing mentioned with that which was in mind: as, to destroy his very life; that is the very thing that was lost: in the latter use, often with same: as, the very same fault.
  • [Very is occasionally used in the comparative degree, and more frequently in the superlative.
  • Truly; actually.
  • In a high degree; to a great extent; extremely; exceedingly.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective True; real; actual; veritable.
  • adjective See the Note under Reverend.
  • adverb In a high degree; to no small extent; exceedingly; excessively; extremely.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective True, real, actual
  • adjective The same; identical.
  • adjective With limiting effect: mere.
  • adverb to a great extent or degree; extremely; exceedingly
  • adverb true, truly

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

  • adverb used as intensifiers; `real' is sometimes used informally for `really'; `rattling' is informal
  • adverb precisely so
  • adjective being the exact same one; not any other:
  • adjective precisely as stated


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

[Middle English verrai, from Old French verai, true, from Vulgar Latin *vērācus, from Latin vērāx, vērāc-, truthful, from vērus, true; see wērə-o- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English verray, verrai ("true"), from Old French verai ("true") (Modern French: vrai), from assumed Vulgar Latin *vērācus, alteration of Latin vērāx ("truthful"), from Latin vērus ("true"), from Proto-Indo-European *wēr- (“true, benevolent”). Cognate with Old English wǣr ("true, correct"), Dutch waar ("true"), German wahr ("true"), Icelandic alvöru ("earnest"). Displaced native Middle English sore, sār ("very") (from Old English sār ("grievous, extreme") (Cf. German: sehr, Dutch: zeer), Middle English wel ("very") (from Old English wel ("well, very")). More at warlock.


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  • “Substitute damn every time you're inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.�?

    - Mark Twain.

    September 25, 2008

  • One of my favorite quotes. :-)

    September 25, 2008

  • A rattling good quote, sir.

    September 25, 2008

  • Damn!

    September 26, 2008

  • I agree with the conventional wisdom that "very" is a sign of poor writing, but until today, if you had asked me why I felt that way, I couldn't have told you. "It just looks wrong," I would have said, wringing my hands anxiously. "Stop asking me difficult questions!"

    Now, though, I have a theory. I will explain my theory with an example. Let's say I'm trying to communicate to you the information that reesetee's desk is large. I want you to picture, in your mind, a standard office desk, and I want you to contrast reesetee's desk with that prototypical desk, and I want you to realize that reesetee's desk is by far the larger.

    How can I make this happen? Well, I could just say "reesetee's desk is large" -- but this doesn't go far enough. You hear me say "reesetee's desk is large", and you understand that reesetee's desk is at least somewhat larger than the average desk, but you don't grasp the elephantine immensity of this particular piece of office furniture. I mean, really, you could land a fighter jet on this thing. Merely saying "reesetee's desk is large" is woefully inadequate.

    Aha!, I think. Perhaps I can increase the size of your mental image by specifying that it's a "very large" desk, instead of just a "large" desk. And indeed, when you contrast the two terms, you find that "very large" is, in fact, larger than just plain "large".

    But that's the problem. Before, when I talked about a merely "large" desk, you contrasted this concept of a large desk with your mental image of a typical desk. But the word "very" invites a different kind of contrast. When I talk about a "very large" desk, I'm saying "Hey, it's not just large, it's very large!", and so you don't contrast "very large" with "typical", you contrast "very large" with "large".

    That's my theory. That's why "very large" is bad writing. When I say "very large", I'm suggesting a contrast to large things, instead of a contrast to typically-sized things. That's a much weaker contrast. It's not going to grab anyone's attention.

    The solution, as I see it, is to use a different word that's inherently stronger. For example, when chained_bear brought up the subject of reesetee's desk, reesetee said "I mean, it's enormous." It works. You read the word "enormous", and you contrast this enormous desk to a typically-sized desk, and you go "Whoa".

    Alternatively, instead of using a stronger word, you could use a descriptive phrase. So, for example, I could tell you that when you look at reesetee working at his desk, he seems to have a lovely reddish tinge, because the light that reaches your eyes has to climb out of the desk's gravity well.

    It works. You get what I'm saying.

    It's a big desk.

    May 18, 2011

  • Not convinced. Very works well in particular situations, e.g. writing for children. There are countless other situations where for rhythm, irony, clarity or some other reason it's not necessarily poor.

    reesetee, Minister of Pesky,

    plots from behind his very large desky

    May 18, 2011

  • Very interesting.

    But I think the reason that employing very is often seen as poor style is not that it fails to convey what is meant, but that it does so abstractly, by - *flicks through Creative Writing 101 Textbook* - telling instead of showing. Better to say that reesetee's desk is large enough to accommodate a nine-hole golf course than simply to say that it is very large.

    Also perhaps because it's prone to overuse. However I do like it in its older sense of genuinely, verily: the "very gentil parfait knight".

    May 18, 2011

  • Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening.

    May 18, 2011