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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 letter, -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
  • None of the words and expressions which are taboo in good society will be found in books of proved literary standing.
  • Pop-up books have always been the exhibitionists of the literary world-all those creases and protrusions.
  • There have never before been so many new books of poetry published, so many anthologies or literary magazines.
  • Some metaphors are not literary creations at all-instead they seem to be built from the ground up, given to us by experience.
  • Of course this is a literary interpretation, not necessarily an interpretation from a believer.
  • Why as to how many persons have read these great literary works and have not in some shape or form been influenced by them.
  • Their journey took them to places of military, spiritual, and literary significance.
  • He was ready for almost any kind of literary work-controversy preferred.
  • Today, a great geek, literary and comic book icon celebrates a birthday.
  • The magazine's political and literary writers weren't chopped liver, either.
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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