Tuesday, 25th February 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

Literally, adv.

Pronunciation: /ˈlɪt(ə)rəli/
Etymology: < literal adj. + -ly suffix

1. In a literal, exact, or actual sense; not figuratively, allegorically, etc.
2. Contronymous to sense 1, in a non-literal, inexact, or non-actual sense; figuratively, allegorically, etc. (perh. confused with laterally adv., to or from the side; in a side direction; sideways). This perversion has made literally unusable by careful writers.


What he doesn’t admit is that the first recorded use of the perversion dates from 1769, in The History of Emily Montague by Frances Brooke: ‘He is a fortunate man to be introduced to such a party of fine women at his arrival; it is literally to feed among the lilies.’