Merriam -Webster has this to say about their changing the definition of “literally” to mean both literally and figuratively:

“….the fact that Charles Dickens used literally in a figurative sense (“‘Lift him out,’ said Squeers, after he had literally feasted his eyes, in silence, upon the culprit”) doesn’t stop readers from complaining about our definition. We define literally in two senses:

1) in a literal sense or manner : actually
2) in effect : virtually

What I have to say to Merriam-Webster?


I am literally astounded that the meaning of this word
has come to be its opposite. Don’t you find it absurd
That literally  means “actually,” but now you have the gall
to say it also can mean “figurative?” Now I’ve seen it all!


For Fandango’s Prompt: Literally.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

10 thoughts on “Flip-flop

  1. M. Oniker

    Seriously, M-W? Aren’t they supposed to be the arbiters of correct usage, not the ones to cave in to common usage? I suppose it is a fine line. Language does move and change (gay anyone?) but still. Pretty soon we could all care less. ;/


  2. Anton Wills-Eve

    I loved that Judy, but nothing like as much as I drooled over Mexico beating Germany 1-0 in the soccer world cup a few minutes ago. My wife and son and I were cheering your adopted land on from start to finish. Now be honest, you may not be glued to soccer but you must know a few happier people now. 🙂
    xx Anton


  3. Anton Wills-Eve

    to return to the post, I am literally amazed to read the American dictionary’s definition of ‘literally’ as the Oxford English Dictionary does not list the word.. Seriously, it is philologically spurious and all uses of it can mean whatever the utterer or writer wishes. I have often taught English as a foreign language to foreign friends, and Australians and Americans never cease to be astounded at how different our vocabularies are. I hope you can understand this! 🙂 Anton



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