Literally is Literally the Most Overused Word

Literally, according to Merriam Webster, the word “literally” literally means:

Main Entry: lit·er·al·ly
Pronunciation: ?li-t?-r?-l?, ?li-tr?-l?, ?li-t?r-l?
Function: adverb
Date: 1533

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter


  1. ROFLOL So true! I mean, hey, if you’re not being literal, why are you using literally? :) Seriously, I try to only use it to clarify, as in literally vs. figuratively. Unfortunately, it’s just one big literal can of worms!

  2. Literally! lol

  3. I wonder if this is in part due to SNL. Remember they used to have that skit where the characters would use that word constantly.

  4. Oh really, Michaela? I haven’t watched SNL since I was young and that was a loooong time ago. lol Thanks for posting!

  5. That has to be literally one of my favorite posts ever! Like, totally! :-) Seriously, thanks for pointing out another way we sometimes unintentionally litter our writing with useless, overused words.

  6. Haha!!! I LOVE it!! I’m one of those that uses ‘literally’ a lot too! Literally.

  7. Thanks Glory, Cindy. I’m glad you liked it. I’ll be back next Word Wednesday with another misused word.

  8. LOL Great post! 😀

  9. Wow! THanks for the retweets folks and thank you Jenny for your comments!


  1. […] Second link, something funny titled, “Literally is Literally the Most Overused Word,” […]

  2. […] an Expert. Aren’t You? Last week I talked about the misuse (and overuse) of the word “literally.”  This week, I continue my series of misused words with the word, “Expert.”  […]