What Is the Definition of 'Literal Meaning'? (with Examples)

What Is the Definition of 'Literal Meaning'? (with Examples)

The term literal meaning denotes that all words are in strict accordance with their original meanings. In other words, to apply the literal meaning is to take the words in their most basic sense without metaphor or exaggeration.

Examples of Literal Meaning

Here are some examples of literal meaning:
  • The comedian died on the stage.
  • (In the literal meaning, the comedian actually died. This contrasts with the figurative sense, which would mean that the comedian struggled to make the audience laugh.)
    (Note: Figurative language is the use of words in an unusual or imaginative manner.)
  • I have thrown the proposal out.
  • (In the literal meaning, the proposal has actually been thrown out as opposed to just dismissed.)

  • John managed to escape the wolves.
  • (In the literal meaning, John actually succeeded in getting away from some genuine wolves as opposed to, say, avoiding a verbal bashing at a meeting from aggressive colleagues.)

  • Can you wait outside?
  • (In the literal meaning, this could be construed as:
    Do you have the ability to wait outside?)

See Also

What is a euphemism? What is figurative language? What is a figure of speech? What is hyperbole? What is an idiom? What is a metaphor? What is personification? What is a simile? Glossary of grammatical terms