'Literally' Definition Changes in Google, Merriam-Webster, Oxford

Thursday, 15 Aug 2013 02:32 PM

By Megan Anderle

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This is literally the worst news ever for grammarians: Google added a second definition to the word "literally" – the word can be used to emphasize a thought or strong feeling that isn't actually true.

The colloquial usage would be regarded as incorrect if used in a classroom but has become widely used in the last few years.

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The definition says: "to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling."

For example, "I'm literally dying from this workout" would be correct by Google's definition.

Merriam-Webster and Cambridge dictionaries have also added the informal, nonliteral definition earlier this year, according to Gizmodo.

A search of Oxford's English dictionary yields the definition, "An extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in nonliteral contexts, for added effect: they bought the car and literally ran it into the ground."

The standard definition of the term is "in a literal manner or sense, exactly."

Dictionaries often add new words and definitions. "Google" used as a verb and "frenemy" are recent additions.

Some grammarians were not happy with the change.













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