Definition of virtual in English:



  • 1Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.

    ‘the virtual absence of border controls’
    • ‘The aim for the US, says the head of US Customs, is to have a smarter border, a virtual border far afield from American shores.’
    • ‘This trend is quite worrisome because, in the virtual absence of private investment, public sector spending is expected to be a major source of stimulus to the economy.’
    • ‘Although he is a capable wicket-keeper and it enables the national side to play him as a virtual all rounder, his keeping has never quite reached the same high standard as his batting.’
    • ‘Newman understood church history as the recounting of all that is known about the progress of the kingdom of Christ on earth, a definition in virtual agreement with Schaff.’
    • ‘The first is the cost of research and the need for profits to justify such costs; the second is the absence from virtual markets of the purely profit-based phenomenon of arbitrage.’
    • ‘One day the richest among us could turn nearly immortal, becoming virtual Gods to the rest of us.’
    • ‘We are only just in the process of developing laws that may protect our closest evolutionary relatives, the other hominids, from virtual extinction.’
    • ‘Friday's phone conversation marked the first time she had contact with a Japanese Diet member since her release from nearly 20 months of virtual house arrest.’
    • ‘Despite the virtual absence of pollutants and allergens there, fully one-third of the population of about 300 are asthma sufferers.’
    • ‘Their findings offer scientists and herders a virtual history book describing how cattle, crucial to so many Africans, came to be so genetically diverse.’
    • ‘The protests have been met with a virtual blackout by the media in Detroit, which has reacted generally with fear and confusion.’
    • ‘Later Mrs Marsh ran a bed and breakfast business but that ended years ago and they were described by residents as virtual recluses.’
    • ‘With the virtual extinction of cod in the North Sea and serious problems with hake and haddock, the commission accepted that previous measures had failed.’
    • ‘The latest one-day action brought bus and underground services to a virtual halt in nearly 50 cities, with the exception of the capital Paris.’
    • ‘Eastern provinces near the Pakistan border have also become virtual no-go areas.’
    • ‘But they won't give the Red Sox the virtual certainty of a solid outing and a day of rest for the bullpen that Martinez does.’
    • ‘For the past 24 hours coalition air and missile raids have come to a virtual standstill, according to a Kyodo News reporter in the capital.’
    • ‘In some ways rather more disappointing was the virtual absence of alcohol from the tournament.’
    • ‘The high plinth of the temple is a virtual tapestry of sculpture, with bands of dancing figures, animals, vegetation and other objects coming to life on its surface.’
    • ‘But many of his views now seem to be echoed in Lord Ouseley's report, which described ‘a virtual apartheid’ in many of Bradford's secondary schools.’
    effective, in effect, near, near enough, essential, practical, for all practical purposes, to all intents and purposes, in all but name, indirect, implied, implicit, unacknowledged, tacit
    View synonyms
  • 2Computing
    Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.

    ‘virtual images’
    • ‘He explained that the software agents act as virtual astronomers, collecting, analysing and interpreting data continually.’
    • ‘First, the judge ruled that a player has a claim of ownership to virtual property in computer game.’
    • ‘The software also supports multiple virtual desktops.’
    • ‘Meanwhile the virtualization engine maps the virtual devices to actual physical devices.’
    • ‘It describes a virtual world that challenges how we perceive the real world.’
    • ‘The software that drives the virtual tape engine emulates tape devices on disk and manages the movement of data from cache to tape and back.’
    • ‘It is worth recognising that, until recently, usage of such virtual workstation software has usually been limited to those with relatively well-developed IT skills.’
    • ‘A virtual break-in is nearly impossible in theory, but it is never wise to count out that one clever hacker.’
    • ‘You won't learn how to bake a cake or wallpaper the kitchen but you will have a thumping, pumping, roller-coaster ride through the virtual world of computer and video games.’
    • ‘The software offers a virtual disk assignment that replaced more complex hardware-intensive reconfigurations.’
    • ‘The Dutch town of Almere will host the world's first virtual city supercomputer or computer grid.’
    • ‘Once they figured out how to get Trojans onto computer, creating their own virtual spamming super computer, spammers have adopted this method for most of the spam they send out.’
    • ‘Since students only need the Internet to access the virtual computer lab, no physical presence on-campus is required.’
    • ‘Mark described how a virtual tour is particularly beneficial for hotels, B&Bs and attraction centres.’
    • ‘Eliminate any software that creates virtual disk volumes.’
    • ‘The result is that the markets of these games have spilled out of their virtual borders and into the real world.’
    • ‘This paper explores the potential for developing virtual dissection software for physical collaboration.’
    • ‘I've learned that I don't have the patience to minister to something that beeps every three minutes and those damn virtual pets are nearly impossible to kill.’
    • ‘It is the closest to the Avatar or virtual agent that I described above that I have heard about.’
    • ‘If things go right and you decide to meet your virtual lover, here are some tips on how to maintain your safety when arranging face-to-face meetings.’
    1. 2.1 Carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network.
      ‘a virtual library’
      ‘virtual learning’
      • ‘Facebook will hold virtual townhall meetings and will collect comments on the documents until March 29.’
      • ‘One museum Web site featured a virtual tour of the museum's physical galleries.’
      • ‘There is a major need for expert mediated virtual libraries (VLs) of well-selected and described links to scholarly and educational resources.’
      • ‘The technology of virtual education can revise or remake the limits, which are given us by our histories and by nature.’
      • ‘Yet it is the teachers who must make the virtual classroom - with all its practicalities - actually function.’
  • 3Optics
    Relating to the points at which rays would meet if produced backwards.

  • 4Mechanics
    Relating to or denoting infinitesimal displacements of a point in a system.

    • ‘The frames feature a unique Four-Bar linkage to create a stationary virtual pivot point on the pedal axle of the bike.’
  • 5Physics
    Denoting particles or interactions with extremely short lifetimes and (owing to the uncertainty principle) indefinitely great energies, postulated as intermediates in some processes.

    • ‘But the gluons are unlike the carrier particles of the electromagnetic force which appeared along with the virtual electrons and positrons.’
    • ‘We look for virtual photons, those never-seen particles of force and energy, for an explanation.’
    • ‘The only thing that prevents these virtual particles from coming into permanent existence is a lack of energy.’
    • ‘The resulting electric field would create a plasma of electrons and positrons from among the virtual particles surrounding the star.’
    • ‘An electron blasts a proton and neutron into myriad virtual particles, which then reconfigure themselves into two double-quark particles.’


Late Middle English (also in the sense ‘possessing certain virtues’): from medieval Latin virtualis, from Latin virtus ‘virtue’, suggested by late Latin virtuosus.