Definition of physical in US English:



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

    ‘a whole range of physical and mental challenges’
    • ‘First, small steps can be taken to help achieve a basic sense of physical safety.’
    • ‘From birth, such an infant will reflexively grab and tightly grip whenever he perceives a physical threat.’
    • ‘I got such a strange sense of what his physical presence would have been like.’
    • ‘He enjoys the contrasts of mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘Even buying a pint of milk was turned into a mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘The Short Form Health Survey was designed to measure perceived current physical health.’
    • ‘Last night I really hurt someone, and I don't mean in the physical sense.’
    • ‘A complicated strategy underlies the thrusts and parries of a duel - making it both a mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘When cycling enthusiast Katie Bamber booked a charity trip to Vietnam she was bracing herself for a tough mental and physical challenge.’
    • ‘Surprisingly, he describes the climb as a mental, not physical, challenge.’
    • ‘Thus it will be seen that a sense of physical security and economic status can be far more influential than is generally recognised.’
    • ‘Mental and physical exhaustion retards the growth of body and mind, and it often causes a psychosomatic illness.’
    • ‘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 was distracted from his blindness, he says, by the deluge of mental and physical challenges coming his way.’
    • ‘Everyone, absolutely everyone, even the greatest ballerina, can recite a list of self-perceived physical deficits.’
    • ‘There is a sense of physical smallness before these works, a kind of Alice in Wonderland-esque trip.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In recent years, researchers have shown that physical changes in the body can be accompanied by mental changes as well.’
    • ‘The healing takes places on an emotional level, a mental level, and on a body level, a physical level.’
    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’
      • ‘There are obvious abuses in this world: physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Rugby is a contact sport that involves physical collisions among its players.’
      • ‘Many drop out of school and many are prey to sexual and physical abuse, neglect and substance abuse.’
      • ‘This included 126 physical assaults, 62 sexual insults and threats and nine cases of racist abuse.’
      • ‘One of the most common allegations relates to physical abuse and excessive corporal punishment.’
      • ‘Sexual and physical assault is still a common problem seen day today in our hospitals.’
      • ‘We berate those who cross the line and leave the immature and underdeveloped open to the physical abuse of contact and collision sports.’
      • ‘They are vulnerable to physical assault, sexual harassment, and rape, and their experiences and fears have tended not to be taken seriously.’
      • ‘By the way, those who say that diving is not a physical contact sport should take a look at Beachcomber's recent emails.’
      • ‘Sexual and physical assaults in adulthood are also related to psychiatric disorders.’
      • ‘Sexual assault, like physical assault, is a frequent event experienced by street prostitutes.’
      • ‘These guys are playing a physical contact game, they're all steamed up.’
      • ‘Yes, there is the element of consent and the obvious foreknowledge that physical contact sports carry an inherent risk of injury.’
      • ‘The cycle needs to be broken - youths need to know abuse is wrong before sexual and physical assaults stop.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Abuse of a child can mean physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse.’
      • ‘Teachers will be asked to say whether they have faced situations ranging from mob intimidation, physical assault or sexual or racial harassment.’
      • ‘All physical contact sports carry an element of risk, and it is a risk that players are aware of and accept.’
      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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Moreover, the piece only refers to a concrete physical setting twice.’
    • ‘A further ambiguity lies in our inability to determine if this availability is merely visual, or if it involves possession in a physical sense.’
    • ‘The media used to transport this information are, in a very real sense, the physical highways over which it travels.’
    • ‘It has a physical presence - a sense of weight - that computer generated effects lack.’
    • ‘Most businesses deal with the physical assets and the environment within, but have never looked at the people.’
    • ‘I can't STAND, for example, to start out with a sense of the actual physical shape a poem is going to take.’
    • ‘Another issue, in design writing at least, is that online writing is separated from a tangible physical object.’
    • ‘What you are able to perceive of the physical world is actually very fragmentary.’
    • ‘The social tone and ethos of the school are both very positive as too is the overall quality of the actual physical working environment.’
    • ‘Like so many things, it's a combination of social reality with a tangible, physical reality.’
    • ‘My desire is to bring the viewer out of the gallery space and into the actual physical environment of the lakebed.’
    • ‘This type of allocation is a physical transfer of a tangible asset from the company to the investors.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The man and his sheep and, indeed, the paint and paper itself, provide the only physical sense of solidity.’
    • ‘When I say this, what I express is not my wish for a pure poetry, but a concrete, physical attitude.’
    • ‘Common sense says that the physical environment has an impact on productivity.’
    • ‘Most life forms on Earth consist of organic carbon, while inorganic carbon may dominate the visible physical environment.’
    • ‘These are tangible, physical assets and totally unlike the stock of a typical NYSE company.’
    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’
    • ‘Certainly, before Newton, the very idea of physical law was at best a blur.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘According to Bridgman, every physical concept is defined by the operations a physicist uses to apply it.’
    • ‘Feynman's work is filled with the sort of raw physical insight that physicists love and admire.’


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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Having a doctor conduct a thorough physical could prevent a tragedy.’
    • ‘Instead of the usual physical involving an array of tests by specialists, the exams were conducted in two phases.’
    • ‘She loved going to the doctor's office and insisted on having a complete physical at every visit.’
    • ‘Within one week of school start, I was ordered to report for a physical.’
    • ‘Planning to treat yourself to a complete physical for the New Year?’
    • ‘Were you anxious or nervous about going to a doctor for a complete physical?’
    • ‘This time it wouldn't be a full physical, but a good thorough scan should alert the physician to any illness.’
    • ‘On the floor, someone had dropped a gown like the kind you wore for a physical.’
    • ‘A healthy child from an area of high endemicity receives an annual physical.’
    • ‘He tried to join the Navy, but failed the physical.’
    • ‘He had been plagued by serious injuries, and the Texans didn't think he could pass a physical.’
    • ‘The 49ers have the option of voiding the trade because Whiting failed a physical.’
    • ‘History and physical with a complete neurologic exam are essential.’
    • ‘Recently, Shari had a physical which including ultrasonic testing of her abdomen to determine the cause of pain.’
    • ‘Just before school was to start, I received a notice from the Navy to report to Oakland Reserve Base for a physical.’
    • ‘The nurse practitioners obtained patients' medical histories and did physical examinations preoperatively, ordered laboratory tests, and taught patients about what to expect.’
    • ‘Patients of all ages came for medical care, physicals, immunizations and reassurance.’
    • ‘It would have been for naught, alas, as later in the day Wright passed a second physical done by Dr. Jim Andrews.’


  • get physical

    • 1informal Become aggressive or violent.

      • ‘They fought over the controller for a good 20 minutes until their mom's had to separate them because they were getting physical.’
      • ‘It almost got physical between the two but old man Barnes was here and broke it up.’
      • ‘As good as their zone-blocking schemes and cutback style can be, when things get physical, they will usually lose.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her father was getting physical, he ended up hitting Chris in the jaw with the back of his hand.’
      • ‘It got physical soon enough and I watched him beat my mother ruthlessly.’
      • ‘I am very lucky, because I am not the kind of person who gets 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.’
      • ‘They even joked about what would happen if their competition got physical.’
      • ‘Or maybe it was fortunate for Bryant that he's smart enough to let words fuel the fire and not get physical with Shaq.’
      1. 1.1Become sexually intimate with someone.
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘He met a girl and they got physical pretty quickly.’
        • ‘We also got physical very much earlier in the relationship than I wanted to.’
        • ‘Though I'm not worried he'll get physical with her, I am uneasy.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Was I just desperate to get physical with someone, it didn't matter who, because I hadn't in months?’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Will you be all right if she gets physical with someone else?’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘You were getting physical with Sam and he took off.’


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.