Informal Definition of ‘Literally’ Spreads Online

By Jason Boog Comment

More than 600,000 readers have pondered the screenshot embedded above, illustrating how an informal definition of the word “literally” has spread to Google. “We did it guys, we finally killed English,” wrote the person who shared the photo.

If you Google the phrase “define literally,” the dictionary listing now includes this secondary definition: “Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.”

You can read other dictionary definitions at this link. For years, passionate grammar defenders have railed against this common and informal use of the word “literally.” Some people use the word to provide exaggerated emphasis for a statement: “I love Raymond Chandler so much I literally read The Long Goodbye one hundred times.”