< Latin verbālis,
equivalent to verb
) word (see verb
) + -ālis -al1
verbally, adverbinterverbal, adjectivenonverbal, adjectivenonverbally, adverbpreverbal, adjectivesubverbal, adjectiveunverbal, adjectiveunverbally, adverb
Can be confused
(see usage note at the current entry)verbal, verbose
3, 4. Verbal
has had the meaning “spoken” since the late 16th century and is thus synonymous with oral: He wrote a memorandum to confirm the verbal agreement.
Slightly earlier, verbal
had developed the meaning “expressed in words, whether spoken or written (as opposed to actions)”: Verbal support is no help without money and supplies.
Although some say that the use of verbal
to mean “spoken” produces ambiguity, it rarely does so. Verbal
is used in this sense in all varieties of speech and writing and is fully standard. The context usually makes the meaning clear: No documents are necessary; a verbal agreement
) will suffice. Oral
can be used instead of verbal
if the context demands: My lawyer insists on a written contract because oral agreements are too difficult to enforce.