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as in:  in the most literal sense

She thinks the creation story in the Bible is a literal description; while he thinks it is poetic.
  true in various senses:
  • actually true (not an exaggeration or metaphor) — as in "We literally jumped for joy."
  • to intensify what is said — especially a metaphor — as in "During the Super Bowl, our eyes were literally pinned to the television."
  • word for word — as in "The literal translation of the French vin aigre is ’sour wine’."
  • true in its explicit meaning without reading anything else into it — as in "She believes in the truth of Bible’s creation story without believing it is literally true."
 Mark word for later review on this computer
literal literalness
Since literally can mean actually or really, but can also be used to intensify a metaphor, the reader has to use context to know which sense is used.

For example, in "He asked her out in front of everyone and she shot him down," you would probably assume she rejected him in a way that deflated his ego. But if it were a story about a violent female gang and you read, "She literally shot him down," you would probably assume you were being told that she shot him with a gun and he fell down. On-the-other-hand, in "The sun was so intense, they were literally burning up," you would probably assume literally is emphasizing the discomfort. But if it were a story about an expedition to the planet Mercury, you might assume they were actually bursting into flames.

Because confusion can arise by having a word mean such different things, many authorities discourage using literally to intensify a metaphor—especially in formal usage.
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  • She thinks the creation story in the Bible is a literal description; while he thinks it is poetic.
  • The computer has no common sense. It will interpret everything you tell it literally.
  • it’s the literal truth
  • a literal translation

  • Show more
  • But I had a hard time when people at school would say their favorite was something like Dumb and Dumber when they had literally thousands of better options.
    John Corey Whaley  --  Nogin
  • They have difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues, such as gestures and facial expressions or ... or drawing understanding from anything other than the literal meaning of words.
    Malcolm Gladwell  --  Blink
  • Thousands of people—literally thousands—had left condolence messages for her.
    John Green  --  The Fault in Our Stars
  • The elevator doors had begun sliding shut when Dr. O’Holleran appeared in the hallway and literally yelled for us to stop.
    Todd Burpo  --  Heaven Is for Real
  • From the time we got into the car to the time we came home, my mom literally did not stop talking.
    Stephen Chbosky  --  The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • —she was always so proud of David and would literally have carried his books to school for him if he had asked her to—
    James McBride  --  The Color of Water

  • Show more again
  • He stood away from the eggs for a moment, literally stood and turned away so that he could not see them.
    Gary Paulsen  --  Hatchet
  • Ms. Queen Marie Antionette Lincoln literally filled a room when she entered it.
    Sharon M. Draper  --  Forged by Fire
  • I mean that literally.
    James Patterson  --  The Angel Experiment
  • Still, the woman literally jumped in the air.
    Sarah Dessen  --  Lock and Key
  • It literally made me bound forward.
    Henry James  --  The Turn of the Screw
  • —is literally the same as mine.
    Harper Lee  --  Go Set a Watchman
  • My usual seat, back row, center aisle, was already taken by Brandon Something, a tennis player who constantly misused the word literally.
    Laurie Halse Anderson  --  The Impossible Knife of Memory
  • I find it hard to focus as I literally count down the minutes.
    Colleen Hoover  --  Slammed
  • I literally have to bite my own hand to keep from screaming, or crying, or bursting out laughing, or getting sick—or all of the above.
    Lauren Oliver  --  Before I Fall
  • For a second Thomas had a hard time believing that the guy who’d dropped in—literally—was real.
    James Dashner  --  The Scorch Trials
  • Some are retooled as living quarters for the kids who are, both literally and figuratively, under his wing.
    Neal Shusterman  --  Unwind
  • The first word that popped into Thomas’s mind was madhouse, and he realized that it was almost literally true.
    James Dashner  --  The Death Cure
  • Their ears were literally pricked.
    Gillian Flynn  --  Gone Girl
  • She’d gotten one girl kicked out, ruined Kriss’s birthday party last month, and literally tried to rip a dress off my back.
    Kiera Cass  --  The Elite
  • So you literally roll them?
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Longest Ride
  • So I literally select each one myself?
    Kiera Cass  --  The Heir
  • The Blackthorns and the Carstairs had always been close, and Jules was only a few months older; she’d literally never lived in a world without him in it.
    Cassandra Clare  --  City of Heavenly Fire
  • Mark couldn’t believe how quickly she’d gone from totally fine to literally on the ground, too weak to stand.
    James Dashner  --  The Kill Order
  • A German word, slang for "wimp," that literally means "a man who sits to pee."
    John Green  --  An Abundance of Katherines
  • Mia cradles her head in her hands, as though she’s literally trying to disappear into her own body.
    Gayle Forman  --  Where She Went
  • It was attached to the kitchen— —like literally attached, without a door.
    Rainbow Rowell  --  Eleanor & Park
  • You literally cry tears of blood.
    Rick Yancey  --  The 5th Wave
  • Now that was literally true.
    Rick Yancey  --  The Infinite Sea
  • I’m literally taking food out of your mouth.
    Dave Eggers  --  The Circle
  • "But you just use him to learn the literal meaning of the words; don’t follow his explanations and interpretation.
    Malala Yousafzai  --  I Am Malala
  • He was, quite literally, raised in a barn.
    Ransom Riggs  --  Hollow City
  • At age seven I’d taken this statement literally, but the headmistress in the picture was smoking a pipe, and her name was Peregrine, a kind of hawk.
    Ransom Riggs  --  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • He told me that the act of writing literally saved his life when he spent two years in solitary confinement.
    Piper Kerman  --  Orange Is the New Black
  • On occasional weekend evenings, bands would perform at the restaurants, and last summer on the Fourth of July, when she was visiting Kevin, so many people came to hear the music and see the fireworks that the marina literally filled with boats.
    Nicholas Sparks  --  The Choice
  • Then the female reared up and quite literally embraced the male with both forepaws while she proceeded to smother him in long-tongued kisses.
    Farley Mowat  --  Never Cry Wolf
  • It meant "don’t let it make you crazy" but it translated literally as: "don’t put a spoon in your eye over it."
    Patrick Rothfuss  --  The Name of the Wind
  • Hata is, literally, "flag," and a "black flag," or kurohata, is the banner a village would raise by its gate in olden times to warn of a contagion within.
    Chang-rae Lee  --  A Gesture Life
  • The post-fight adrenaline has me literally trembling.
    Susan Ee  --  Angelfall
  • Though there are literally millions of geckos in south Florida, I swear this one follows me to school and seems to be everywhere I am.
    Pittacus Lore  --  I Am Number Four
  • Quite literally it seems.
    Marissa Meyer  --  Cinder
  • It’s our first proper holiday together, and there is literally not one single trip in these that doesn’t involve either throwing yourself off something or"—she pretends to shudder—"wearing fleece."
    Jojo Moyes  --  Me Before You
  • Meg moved on from Pac-Man (having given the game twenty seconds of her time) and began literally climbing the wall.
    Rick Riordan  --  The Trials of Apollo
  • The device is the Desk-Fax, a machine which sends and receives telegrams by literally taking a picture of them.
    Judy Blume  --  In the Unlikely Event
  • I mean I literally threw up.
    Trenton Lee Stewart  --  The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • John had never asked formal permission to call; he had merely taken literally Rachel’s invitation to come again.
    Elizabeth George Speare  --  The Witch of Blackbird Pond
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Associated words [difficulty]:   literal [1]
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Most commonly used in these subjects:   History, Religion & Spirtuality, Religion - Christianity
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