Main Entry: lit·er·al·ly
Pronunciation: ?li-t?-r?-l?, ?li-tr?-l?, ?li-t?r-l?
1 : in a literal sense or manner : actually <took the remark literally> <was literally insane>
2 : in effect : virtually <will literally turn the world upside down to combat cruelty or injustice — Norman Cousins>
Usage: Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.
People use the word “literally” when they literally mean it actually, really, literally happened. And it has become literally accepted to literally use the word “literally” as emphasis. Unfortunately, the overuse of the word “literally” has literally moved the word “literally” into literal oblivion leaving it literally bereft of all meaning.
So the word “literally” can sometimes literally mean literally the opposite of what the word “literally” literally means, however, it can be literally overused to the point where the word “literally” literally means nothing much whatever…literally.
Words mean things, don’t they? Stay tuned for next week’s edition of Word Wednesday featuring another misused word or term.