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[lit-uh-rer-ee] /ˈlɪt əˌrɛr i/
pertaining to or of the nature of books and writings, especially those classed as literature:
literary history.
pertaining to authorship:
literary style.
versed in or acquainted with literature; well-read.
engaged in or having the profession of literature or writing:
a literary man.
characterized by an excessive or affected display of learning; stilted; pedantic.
preferring books to actual experience; bookish.
Origin of literary
1640-50; < Latin līterārius, litterārius of reading and writing. See letter1, -ary
Related forms
literarily, adverb
literariness, noun
nonliterarily, adverb
nonliterarilyness, noun
nonliterariness, noun
nonliterary, adjective
overliterarily, adverb
overliterariness, noun
overliterary, adjective
preliterary, adjective
pseudoliterary, adjective
quasi-literary, adjective
unliterary, adjective
Usage note
In this dictionary, the label Literary is assigned to an entry term or definition that is used rarely in contemporary speech or writing except to create a literary, poetic, or evocative effect. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for literary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is less "literary" than psychological, less psychological than physiological.

    Unicorns James Huneker
  • Some literary works of Mr. Gladstone have been already noticed.

    The Grand Old Man Richard B. Cook
  • Lovers of realistic fiction will revel in this literary feast.

  • There was such a litter as always gathers around a literary man.

    Biographical Sketches Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • From these premises it can be easily inferred that the standard of literary activity in Cuba could not have been very high.

    The History of Cuba, vol. 2 Willis Fletcher Johnson
British Dictionary definitions for literary


/ˈlɪtərərɪ; ˈlɪtrərɪ/
of, relating to, concerned with, or characteristic of literature or scholarly writing: a literary discussion, a literary style
versed in or knowledgeable about literature: a literary man
(of a word) formal; not colloquial
Derived Forms
literarily, adverb
literariness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Latin litterārius concerning reading and writing. See letter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for literary

1640s, "pertaining to alphabet letters," from French littéraire, from Latin literarius/litterarius "belonging to letters or learning," from littera/litera "letter" (see letter (n.1)). Meaning "pertaining to literature" is attested from 1737.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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