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

  • adj. Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name: the virtual extinction of the buffalo.
  • adj. Existing in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination. Used in literary criticism of a text.
  • adj. Computer Science Created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network: virtual conversations in a chatroom.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. In effect or essence, if not in fact or reality; imitated, simulated.
  • adj. Nearly, almost. (A relatively recent corruption of meaning, attributed to misuse in advertising and media.)
  • adj. Of something that is simulated in a computer or on-line.
  • adj. In object-oriented programming, capable of being overridden with a different implementation in a subclass.
  • adj. Related to technology.
  • n. In C++, a virtual member function of a class.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having the power of acting or of invisible efficacy without the agency of the material or sensible part; potential; energizing.
  • adj. Being in essence or effect, not in fact.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In electricity, in alternating currents, effective: said of the value which is to be used in computing energy or power relations of a current.
  • In synchronous alternating-current machines, the induced electromotive force corresponding to the resultant of the magnetomotive forces of field-flux and armature-flux.
  • Existing in effect, power, or virtue, but not actually: opposed to real, actual, formal, immediate, literal.
  • Pertaining to a real force or virtue; potential.
  • In mech., as usually understood, possible and infinitesimal: but this meaning seems to have arisen from a misunderstanding of the original phrase virtual velocity, first used by John Bernoulli, January 26th, 1717, which was not clearly defined as a volocity at all, but rather as an infinitesimal displacement of the point of application of a force resolved in the direction of that force.

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

  • adj. existing in essence or effect though not in actual fact
  • adj. being actually such in almost every respect


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

Middle English virtuall, effective, from Medieval Latin virtuālis, from Latin virtūs, excellence; see virtue.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin virtuālis, from virtus ("virtue").


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  • originally meant or allied "potential" as opposed to "actual": now is a virtual synonym of actual: a "180 degree turn" in meaning word

    September 10, 2007