how can we use “literally”?

What does literally exactly mean?

I am not so clear about its meaning, and I often get confused.

Answer actually gives a very good description of what happened to the word literally and why there is confusion in it’s definition and usage:

Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an
intensifier meaning “in effect, virtually,” a sense that contradicts
the earlier meaning “actually, without exaggeration.” The use
is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most
carefully edited writing.

Basically, what they are saying is that we are now using the word in two different ways. The traditional way of actual, concrete, black and white fact and to exaggerate something to make a point.

One of the examples they use for the second way is:

The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a

In this case, “literally trading horses” refers to the huge amount of give and take that was going on.

Source : Link , Question Author : Mohsin Shaikh , Answer Author : lonehorseend

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