Definition of physical in English:



  • 1Relating to the body as opposed to the mind.

    ‘a whole range of physical and mental challenges’
    • ‘There is a sense of physical smallness before these works, a kind of Alice in Wonderland-esque trip.’
    • ‘Thus it will be seen that a sense of physical security and economic status can be far more influential than is generally recognised.’
    • ‘In recent years, researchers have shown that physical changes in the body can be accompanied by mental changes as well.’
    • ‘From birth, such an infant will reflexively grab and tightly grip whenever he perceives a physical threat.’
    • ‘He was distracted from his blindness, he says, by the deluge of mental and physical challenges coming his way.’
    • ‘The healing takes places on an emotional level, a mental level, and on a body level, a physical level.’
    • ‘First, small steps can be taken to help achieve a basic sense of physical safety.’
    • ‘Even buying a pint of milk was turned into a mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘I got such a strange sense of what his physical presence would have been like.’
    • ‘A complicated strategy underlies the thrusts and parries of a duel - making it both a mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘Mental and physical exhaustion retards the growth of body and mind, and it often causes a psychosomatic illness.’
    • ‘When cycling enthusiast Katie Bamber booked a charity trip to Vietnam she was bracing herself for a tough mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘With the emergence of the first decent wind of the week, this was links golf at its best, challenging the mental and physical endurance of all concerned.’
    • ‘He enjoys the contrasts of mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘The play ebbed and flowed from one end of the field to the other, with no regard for the physical limitations of the body nor that of the human mind.’
    • ‘Everyone, absolutely everyone, even the greatest ballerina, can recite a list of self-perceived physical deficits.’
    • ‘Surprisingly, he describes the climb as a mental, not physical, challenge.’
    • ‘Last night I really hurt someone, and I don't mean in the physical sense.’
    • ‘The Short Form Health Survey was designed to measure perceived current physical health.’
    bodily, corporeal, corporal, fleshly, in the flesh
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    1. 1.1 Involving bodily contact or activity.
      ‘verbal or physical abuse’
      ‘football and other physical games’
      • ‘The cycle needs to be broken - youths need to know abuse is wrong before sexual and physical assaults stop.’
      • ‘All physical contact sports carry an element of risk, and it is a risk that players are aware of and accept.’
      • ‘One of the most obvious ways that a victim can avoid or escape physical abuse may be by contacting the police and leaving the home.’
      • ‘By the way, those who say that diving is not a physical contact sport should take a look at Beachcomber's recent emails.’
      • ‘Abuse of a child can mean physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse.’
      • ‘This included 126 physical assaults, 62 sexual insults and threats and nine cases of racist abuse.’
      • ‘Sexual assault, like physical assault, is a frequent event experienced by street prostitutes.’
      • ‘Sexual and physical assaults in adulthood are also related to psychiatric disorders.’
      • ‘Renner and Yurchesyn compared cases of physical assault, sexual assault and robbery in Nova Scotia.’
      • ‘The alleged sexual and physical assault was inflicted on a young Latvian man at Station Road, Portarlington recently.’
      • ‘One of the most common allegations relates to physical abuse and excessive corporal punishment.’
      • ‘They are vulnerable to physical assault, sexual harassment, and rape, and their experiences and fears have tended not to be taken seriously.’
      • ‘These guys are playing a physical contact game, they're all steamed up.’
      • ‘There are obvious abuses in this world: physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.’
      • ‘Many drop out of school and many are prey to sexual and physical abuse, neglect and substance abuse.’
      • ‘We berate those who cross the line and leave the immature and underdeveloped open to the physical abuse of contact and collision sports.’
      • ‘Rugby is a contact sport that involves physical collisions among its players.’
      • ‘Teachers will be asked to say whether they have faced situations ranging from mob intimidation, physical assault or sexual or racial harassment.’
      • ‘Sexual and physical assault is still a common problem seen day today in our hospitals.’
      • ‘Yes, there is the element of consent and the obvious foreknowledge that physical contact sports carry an inherent risk of injury.’
      manual, labouring, blue-collar
      earthly, worldly, terrestrial, earthbound, non-spiritual, unspiritual, material
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  • 2Relating to things perceived through the senses as opposed to the mind; tangible or concrete.

    ‘pleasant physical environments’
    ‘physical assets such as houses or cars’
    • ‘Another issue, in design writing at least, is that online writing is separated from a tangible physical object.’
    • ‘The actual physical objects in the environment that we see make up the contents of our experience.’
    • ‘For these are paintings in the traditional sense: unique physical objects which display the marks of craft and have a real presence.’
    • ‘A further ambiguity lies in our inability to determine if this availability is merely visual, or if it involves possession in a physical sense.’
    • ‘What you are able to perceive of the physical world is actually very fragmentary.’
    • ‘I can't STAND, for example, to start out with a sense of the actual physical shape a poem is going to take.’
    • ‘The man and his sheep and, indeed, the paint and paper itself, provide the only physical sense of solidity.’
    • ‘Most life forms on Earth consist of organic carbon, while inorganic carbon may dominate the visible physical environment.’
    • ‘We have a moral sense that we use to make moral observations, in the same way as we use our physical senses to make physical observations.’
    • ‘These are tangible, physical assets and totally unlike the stock of a typical NYSE company.’
    • ‘It has a physical presence - a sense of weight - that computer generated effects lack.’
    • ‘Moreover, the piece only refers to a concrete physical setting twice.’
    • ‘The media used to transport this information are, in a very real sense, the physical highways over which it travels.’
    • ‘Common sense says that the physical environment has an impact on productivity.’
    • ‘Like so many things, it's a combination of social reality with a tangible, physical reality.’
    • ‘When I say this, what I express is not my wish for a pure poetry, but a concrete, physical attitude.’
    • ‘This type of allocation is a physical transfer of a tangible asset from the company to the investors.’
    • ‘My desire is to bring the viewer out of the gallery space and into the actual physical environment of the lakebed.’
    • ‘Most businesses deal with the physical assets and the environment within, but have never looked at the people.’
    • ‘The social tone and ethos of the school are both very positive as too is the overall quality of the actual physical working environment.’
    material, substantial, solid, concrete, tangible, palpable, visible, real, actual
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  • 3Relating to physics or the operation of natural forces generally.

    ‘physical laws’
    • ‘Feynman's work is filled with the sort of raw physical insight that physicists love and admire.’
    • ‘Certainly, before Newton, the very idea of physical law was at best a blur.’
    • ‘According to Bridgman, every physical concept is defined by the operations a physicist uses to apply it.’
    • ‘Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws.’
    • ‘When we discuss phase changes to matter, physical forces create the changes.’


  • A medical examination to determine a person's bodily fitness.

    • ‘Having a doctor conduct a thorough physical could prevent a tragedy.’
    • ‘Were you anxious or nervous about going to a doctor for a complete physical?’
    • ‘Within one week of school start, I was ordered to report for a physical.’
    • ‘Just before school was to start, I received a notice from the Navy to report to Oakland Reserve Base for a physical.’
    • ‘He had been plagued by serious injuries, and the Texans didn't think he could pass a physical.’
    • ‘Patients of all ages came for medical care, physicals, immunizations and reassurance.’
    • ‘Recently, Shari had a physical which including ultrasonic testing of her abdomen to determine the cause of pain.’
    • ‘The nurse practitioners obtained patients' medical histories and did physical examinations preoperatively, ordered laboratory tests, and taught patients about what to expect.’
    • ‘This time it wouldn't be a full physical, but a good thorough scan should alert the physician to any illness.’
    • ‘He tried to join the Navy, but failed the physical.’
    • ‘History and physical with a complete neurologic exam are essential.’
    • ‘A healthy child from an area of high endemicity receives an annual physical.’
    • ‘Instead of the usual physical involving an array of tests by specialists, the exams were conducted in two phases.’
    • ‘The 49ers have the option of voiding the trade because Whiting failed a physical.’
    • ‘Planning to treat yourself to a complete physical for the New Year?’
    • ‘It would have been for naught, alas, as later in the day Wright passed a second physical done by Dr. Jim Andrews.’
    • ‘She loved going to the doctor's office and insisted on having a complete physical at every visit.’
    • ‘None of these programs provide primary HIV care, although medical staff at each conduct annual physical examinations, perform urinalysis and blood counts, and skin test for tuberculosis.’
    • ‘The three-year deal for about US $9 million cannot be finalized until he passes a physical.’
    • ‘On the floor, someone had dropped a gown like the kind you wore for a physical.’


  • get physical

    • 1informal Become aggressive or violent.

      • ‘Her father was getting physical, he ended up hitting Chris in the jaw with the back of his hand.’
      • ‘Or maybe it was fortunate for Bryant that he's smart enough to let words fuel the fire and not get physical with Shaq.’
      • ‘It got physical soon enough and I watched him beat my mother ruthlessly.’
      • ‘As good as their zone-blocking schemes and cutback style can be, when things get physical, they will usually lose.’
      • ‘They fought over the controller for a good 20 minutes until their mom's had to separate them because they were getting physical.’
      • ‘The newspaper followed up on the death of a black club patron who was suffocated by a white bouncer when a dispute over the club's dress code got physical.’
      • ‘In the first practice of their off-week, the Lions ran a spirited one-on-one passing drill with the cornerbacks getting physical at the line.’
      • ‘I am very lucky, because I am not the kind of person who gets physical.’
      • ‘It almost got physical between the two but old man Barnes was here and broke it up.’
      • ‘They even joked about what would happen if their competition got physical.’
      1. 1.1Become sexually intimate with someone.
        • ‘Will you be all right if she gets physical with someone else?’
        • ‘You were getting physical with Sam and he took off.’
        • ‘Women, on the other hand, live in a ‘emotion’ or ‘love’ house, whereas getting physical is a room they have to have a reason to get up, walk over to, and enter.’
        • ‘I think that's good, because it's such an intense world that we're creating, so finding the right moment for people to get physical is going to take time.’
        • ‘I was in a long-distance relationship for two years, and one thing we noticed was the amount of time it takes to get physical again after a period apart.’
        • ‘For instance, Rhonda would say that even though she was getting physical with her trainer, their relationship was mainly about her need to lose pounds and inches off her figure.’
        • ‘Though I'm not worried he'll get physical with her, I am uneasy.’
        • ‘We also got physical very much earlier in the relationship than I wanted to.’
        • ‘Was I just desperate to get physical with someone, it didn't matter who, because I hadn't in months?’
        • ‘He met a girl and they got physical pretty quickly.’


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘relating to medicine’): from medieval Latin physicalis, from Latin physica ‘things relating to nature’ (see physic). Sense 2 dates from the late 16th century and sense 1 from the late 18th century.