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literal (adj.)

late 14c., "taking words in their natural meaning" (originally in reference to Scripture and opposed to mystical or allegorical), from Late Latin literalis/litteralis "of or belonging to letters or writing," from Latin litera/littera "letter, alphabetic sign; literature, books" (see letter (n.1)). Related: Literalness.

Meaning "of or pertaining to alphabetic letters" is from late 14c. Meaning "concerned with letters and learning, learned, scholarly" is from mid-15c. Sense of "verbally exact, according to the letter of verbal expression" is attested from 1590s, as is application to the primary sense of a word or passage. Literal-minded is attested from 1791.

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Definitions of literal from WordNet
1
literal (adj.)
being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something; "a literal solitude like a desert"- G.K.Chesterton;
Synonyms: actual / genuine / real
literal (adj.)
without interpretation or embellishment;
a literal depiction of the scene before him
literal (adj.)
limited to the explicit meaning of a word or text;
a literal translation
literal (adj.)
avoiding embellishment or exaggeration (used for emphasis);
it's the literal truth
2
literal (n.)
a mistake in printed matter resulting from mechanical failures of some kind;
Synonyms: misprint / erratum / typographical error / typo / literal error
From wordnet.princeton.edu