Definition of verbal in English:



  • 1Relating to or in the form of words.

    ‘the root of the problem is visual rather than verbal’
    ‘verbal abuse’
    • ‘Music may have meaning, but it is an imprecise language, a language of suggestion and imagery rather than verbal description.’
    • ‘But there is a certain standard of verbal dexterity that is expected in politicians at this level.’
    • ‘He gave Rafe a parting thump along with a touch more verbal abuse and left us alone.’
    • ‘The Democratic governors who witnessed the verbal assault were likewise restrained in their reaction.’
    • ‘He has verbal dexterity and rhyming skills which very few rap artists have.’
    • ‘I didn't feel up for more verbal abuse, but I still wondered where he was taking me.’
    • ‘Then there are the random moments like that when verbal communication breaks through.’
    • ‘‘It's nice to finally see Silsden getting some visible support rather than just verbal support,’ she said.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, some politicians are prepared to trade verbal punches rather than attend to the country's business.’
    • ‘He loves this verbal jousting as a dodge for his academic laziness.’
    • ‘Joan interrupted their verbal jousting by stepping forward and taking the bottle out of Zeke's hand.’
    • ‘The conversations between the bird beings sound as ‘bird brained’ as the rather mindless verbal dilly-dallying of the humans.’
    • ‘From absolutely nowhere Syrah ran into the verbal battle, speaking with venom in her normally controlled voice.’
    • ‘Why are they often able to deter attacks using merely verbal threats?’
    • ‘Perhaps indirect rather than direct verbal strategies and nonverbal communication would be preferable in some relationships.’
    • ‘After protracted verbal sparring followed by hand-to-hand combat, Harry defeats Riddle by stabbing the diary.’
    • ‘The camera remains centered on the individuals as they speak, but pulls back when verbal confrontations occur.’
    • ‘He loves the verbal jousting almost as much as the 90 minutes.’
    • ‘Tests at twelve months showed marginal improvement in verbal fluency associated with estradiol declines.’
    • ‘The highly verbal quality of their construction can prove an insurmountable obstacle to their success as a film.’
    1. 1.1 Spoken rather than written; oral.
      ‘a verbal agreement’
      • ‘Written and verbal invitations to community representatives to dialogue with the company have not been taken up.’
      • ‘A verbal agreement can hold more weight than, or even entirely supercede, a written one.’
      • ‘She gave a verbal agreement to appear in the 1992 film, Boxing Helena.’
      • ‘The councillors did reverse themselves on this matter after two written and two verbal submissions from me.’
      • ‘These beliefs were grounded in memory, experience, and observation rather than verbal instruction or religious revelation.’
      • ‘SL stated that despite there being no written contract there was a verbal agreement and that would stand up in law.’
      • ‘Monday's hearing heard written and verbal testimonies from family members of the deceased and from medical staff.’
      • ‘Healthcare providers may need to write ‘exercise prescriptions’ rather than give verbal advice to frail older adults.’
      • ‘By being in the frame, I could direct scenes from within, rather than giving verbal directions to my actors in-between scenes.’
      • ‘Manchester United have reportedly reached a verbal agreement with Barcelona on a fee for the England captain.’
      • ‘Here as well, purely verbal concessions were made to demands for international control.’
      • ‘Patients who understand and can apply written or verbal information and instructions have better outcomes.’
      • ‘This can be accomplished by employing consistent verbal descriptors in both oral speech and written materials.’
      • ‘They have extraordinary verbal skills and written skills.’
      • ‘Patients received written and verbal instructions on proper inhaler technique at screening and at each of the study visits.’
      • ‘Previous studies by the group have shown that depressed persons making serious suicide attempts have impaired verbal fluency.’
      • ‘Verbal fluency Participants were asked to produce as many grocery items as possible during 60 seconds.’
      • ‘We proceeded with the understanding that this verbal agreement would eventually be formalized in writing.’
      • ‘I received several written as well as verbal follow-ups to ensure I was happy and not having any problems.’
      • ‘The experimenter wrote verbal protocols down verbatim.’
      oral, spoken, said, uttered, articulated, expressed, stated, verbalized, vocal, unwritten, by mouth, word-of-mouth
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Tending to talk a lot.
      ‘he's very verbal’
      • ‘Second, Crow suggests that evolutionary processes were greatly accelerated by female selection of highly verbal males.’
  • 2Grammar
    Relating to or derived from a verb.

    ‘a verbal adjective’
    • ‘Among other particular features of Albanian and other Balkan languages are a postpositive definite article and the absence of a verbal infinitive.’
    • ‘It is unlikely that such a verb as organize will shift, because of its verbal suffix: no Let's have an organize.’
    • ‘The past forms of nominal sentences are verbal sentences because of the verb of existence which expresses the past tense.’
    • ‘Nominal, adjectival, and verbal expressions can, however, be ‘coerced’ into serving a non-prototypical function.’

nounPlural verbals

  • 1Grammar
    A word or words functioning as a verb.

    1. 1.1 A verbal noun.
  • 2British informal mass noun Abuse; insults.

    ‘just a bit of air-wave verbals’
    • ‘Ryan, 55, has provided the goading verbals for a decade, ever since the mysterious death of Gorgeous George.’
    • ‘With countless hackles raised, justifiably, on a daily basis with regard to the current fiasco, it's time for the verbals to cease.’
    • ‘Yet abandoning the argument over a few lousy verbals was untenable.’
    • ‘In other works the verbal comes to the forefront.’
    • ‘But the fact that it's not just verbals now is what worries me.’
    • ‘Forget Hawkeye and the Snickometer, Channel 4 should be hiring a lip-reader and registering the verbals on a swearometer.’
    • ‘Instead of verbals being directed at the board, though, the chants of ‘Niemi, Niemi’ were merely a tribute to the goalkeeper.’
    • ‘Then deep in injury time Kerry were caught off side again, Kerins reacted with verbals to the official, and the referee gave him a red card.’
    • ‘He loves the posturing and the verbals and considers it all part of his job as a member of the entertainment business.’
    • ‘Clearly, some players react to a bit of the verbals - but there's so much more to the game these days.’
    abuse, stream of abuse, torrent of abuse, teasing, hectoring, jeering, barracking, cursing, scolding, upbraiding, rebuke, reproval, castigation, revilement, vilification, vituperation, defamation, slander, flak
    View synonyms
  • 3verbalsinformal The lyrics of a song or the dialogue of a film.

    ‘it is the responsibility of the directors to do better with the verbals’
    • ‘It is, in its own small way, a tour de force: his oddball verbals and musical eclecticism do combine in a coherent manner.’
    • ‘To most purists, putting a new beat behind Grandmaster Flash's verbals is tantamount to redrawing Manet's Olympia on MS Paint.’
    • ‘That, though, was merely the prelude to Lennon's verbals.’
  • 4usually verbalsBritish informal A verbal statement containing a damaging admission alleged to have been made to the police, and offered as evidence by the prosecution.

    • ‘But the mischief that McKinney, after two decades of cases, the mischief was exactly the problem of verbals.’

verbverballed, verbals, verballing

[with object]British
  • Attribute a damaging statement to (a suspect), especially dishonestly.

    • ‘Mr Turnbull may have been caught out, playing to the crowd on Monday night, or he may have been verballed.’
    • ‘I thought I had effectively verballed the parties on more than one occasion.’
    • ‘Him verballing other people at a meeting on the other side of the world apparently putting things in the newspaper, for me has zero credibility.’
    • ‘The member for Werriwa should get a wig and a gown if he is going to start verballing other members of the chamber in this way.’
    • ‘And when I went forward, I was verballed by Internal Affairs.’


It is sometimes said that the true sense of the adjective verbal is ‘of or concerned with words’, whether spoken or written (as in verbal abuse), and that it should not be used to mean ‘spoken rather than written’ (as in a verbal agreement). For this sense, it is said that the adjective oral should be used instead. In practice, however, verbal is well established in this sense and, in certain idiomatic phrases (such as a verbal agreement), cannot be simply replaced by oral


Late 15th century (describing a person who deals with words rather than things): from French, or from late Latin verbalis, from verbum ‘word’ (see verb).