Definition of literally in English:

literally

adverb

  • 1In a literal manner or sense; exactly.

    ‘the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the roundabout’
    ‘tiramisu, literally translated ‘pull-me-up’’
    • ‘Several huge branches were quite literally held in place by lengths of rope.’
    • ‘A key point is that space should be owned and supervised, literally and metaphorically.’
    • ‘The ground on which the match is being played is, literally, next door to his mansion.’
    • ‘We kept him there for twenty more minutes, and when he had to leave we literally followed him to the door of his taxi cab.’
    • ‘In some bizarre animator's joke, they were literally suspended, all hung in the air in a big room.’
    • ‘Here is, literally, a national platform for a politician who aspires to be a national leader.’
    • ‘The couple met three years ago when they literally bumped into each other at a Hampton Court funfair.’
    • ‘The art of edging is to literally tip your skis sideways allowing the edge to cut into the snow.’
    • ‘I'll be staying with villagers who live with landmines literally on their doorsteps.’
    • ‘The nuances, exaggerations and pretences of conversation can be taken literally.’
    • ‘As soon as I heard the crash I looked up and he literally came through the roof.’
    • ‘The event was literally hot with a fire dancer welcoming everybody with a puff of fire.’
    • ‘One wonders if he knows where the bodies are buried, perhaps quite literally.’
    • ‘Bulbs were literally worth their weight in gold and the Dutch economy was in serious risk of collapse.’
    • ‘What worries me is that these guys are going to run into problems literally the first day out.’
    • ‘According to his ex-wife, he literally ran away a number of times during their marriage.’
    • ‘Darsana literally means view, in the sense of having a cognitive sight of something.’
    • ‘Of course the house was still standing after Bruce's encore so it didn't literally come down.’
    • ‘Every Zulu thrust was repulsed by soldiers literally fighting for their lives.’
    • ‘Police in Bradford are helping to show the way to other forces by proving literally that crime does not pay.’
    verbatim, word for word, line for line, letter for letter, to the letter
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1informal Used for emphasis while not being literally true.
      ‘I was literally blown away by the response I got’
      • ‘In Milan I literally had to work my socks off to get on to a train to Paris.’
      • ‘He has literally put blood, sweat and tears into earning a living for his family, but it goes with the turf.’
      • ‘I have spent literally hours on search engines, as have friends, and friends of friends.’
      • ‘Know that there are literally millions around the world who are with you in this moment.’
      • ‘We can buy fresh lettuce, literally straight out of the ground, for nine pence.’
      • ‘Dinner, which comes in menus of up to eight superb courses, literally frolics on your tongue.’
      • ‘I literally don't know what the next sentence is, which is probably why my books are the way they are.’
      • ‘So what else did he do but literally pick me up and sat in the car with me practically sitting on him.’
      • ‘It is not surprising that she is, literally, the most prized journalist in America today.’
      • ‘This has brought us into contact with literally thousands who think as we do.’
      • ‘He had literally turned my own sentence upon me and made me look an idiot.’
      • ‘Just as the strings literally reach orgasm, what do I hear from the other sofa?’
      • ‘Two ushers had to literally pick the guy up out of his chair and drag him out.’
      • ‘The last federal election came down to literally a handful of votes in some ridings.’
      • ‘When he returned to York after the war he had a business plan which literally revolved around the motor car.’
      • ‘That first weekend I literally locked myself in my room, sleepless and without eating.’
      • ‘I literally park there for five minutes while I walk my girls to the school gates and collect them.’
      • ‘On any given day there are literally thousands of people trying to kick the smoking habit.’
      • ‘There are literally thousands of techniques you can use, and it all depends on what rings true for you.’
      • ‘To provide that level of service we would be talking about spending literally millions of pounds.’

Usage

In its standard use literally means ‘in a literal sense, as opposed to a non-literal or exaggerated sense’, as for example in I told him I never wanted to see him again, but I didn't expect him to take it literally. In recent years an extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in non-literal contexts, for added effect, as in they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground. This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects (we were literally killing ourselves laughing) and is not acceptable in formal contexts, though it is widespread

Pronunciation

literally

/ˈlɪt(ə)rəli/