Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
late 14c., "influencing by physical virtues or capabilities," from Medieval Latin virtualis, from Latin virtus "excellence, potency, efficacy," literally "manliness, manhood" (see virtue). The meaning of "being something in essence or fact, though not in name" is first recorded 1650s, probably via sense of "capable of producing a certain effect" (early 15c.). Computer sense of "not physically existing but made to appear by software" is attested from 1959.
(Via the technical term virtual memory, probably from the term "virtual image" in optics) 1. Common alternative to logical; often used to refer to the artificial objects (like addressable virtual memory larger than physical memory) created by a computer system to help the system control access to shared resources.
2. Simulated; performing the functions of something that isn't really there. An imaginative child's doll may be a virtual playmate.
Opposite of real or physical.