adverb Date: 1533 1. in a literal sense or manner ; actually <
took the remark literally
was literally insane
2. in effect ; virtually <
will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins
Usage: Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.

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  • literally — Few words have the capacity to cause such mirth: • My grandfather, King George VI, who had literally been catapulted onto the throne Prince Edward as quoted in Private Eye, 1998. There will always be occasions when this type of hilarity is best… …   Modern English usage

  • literally — [lit′ər əl ē] adv. in a literal manner or sense; specif., a) word for word; not imaginatively, figuratively, or freely [to translate a passage literally] b) actually; in fact [the house literally burned to the ground ]: now often used as an… …   English World dictionary

  • Literally — Lit er*al*ly, adv. 1. According to the primary and natural import of words; not figuratively; as, a man and his wife can not be literally one flesh. [1913 Webster] 2. With close adherence to words; word by word. [1913 Webster] So wild and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • literally — index faithfully, verbatim Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • literally — 1530s, in a literal sense, from LITERAL (Cf. literal) + LY (Cf. ly) (2). Erroneously used in reference to metaphors, hyperbole, etc., even by writers like Dryden and Pope, to indicate what follows must be taken in the strongest admissible sense… …   Etymology dictionary

  • literally — [adv] word for word; exactly actually, completely, correctly, direct, directly, faithfully, indisputably, letter by letter*, literatim, not figuratively, plainly, precisely, really, rightly, rigorously, sic*, simply, straight, strictly, to the… …   New thesaurus

  • literally — ► ADVERB 1) in a literal manner or sense. 2) informal used for emphasis (rather than to suggest literal truth) …   English terms dictionary

  • literally — 01. The players were [literally] dripping wet after the two hour practice. 02. The [literal] meaning of starving is dying of hunger, but people often use it to mean they are very hungry. 03. The views of the city from the top of the mountain are… …   Grammatical examples in English

  • literally — [[t]lɪ̱tərəli[/t]] 1) ADV: ADV with cl/group (not last in cl), ADV before v (emphasis) You can use literally to emphasize an exaggeration. Some careful speakers of English think that this use is incorrect. We ve got to get the economy under… …   English dictionary

  • literally — /lit euhr euh lee/, adv. 1. in the literal or strict sense: What does the word mean literally? 2. in a literal manner; word for word: to translate literally. 3. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy: The city was literally destroyed. 4. in …   Universalium

  • literally —    All too often used as a kind of disclaimer by writers who mean, literally, the opposite of what they are saying. The result is generally excruciating: Hetzel was literally born with a butchers knife in his mouth (Chicago Tribune); After a slow …   Dictionary of troublesome word

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