Definition of literal adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈlɪtərəl//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈlɪtərəl//
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  1. 1[usually before noun] being the most basic meaning of a word or phrase, rather than an extended or poetic meaning I am not referring to ‘small’ people in the literal sense of the word. The literal meaning of ‘petrify’ is ‘turn to stone’. compare figurative, metaphorical
  2. 2[usually before noun] that follows the original words exactly a literal translation compare free
  3. 3(disapproving) lacking imagination Her interpretation of the music was too literal.
  4. Word Originlate Middle English: from Old French, or from late Latin litteralis, from Latin littera ‘letter of the alphabet’, (plural) ‘epistle, literature, culture’.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: literal