Meaning of “exactly” in the English Dictionary

american-english dictionary

"exactly" in British English

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exactlyadverb

uk /ɪɡˈzækt.li/ us /ɪɡˈzækt.li/

A2 used when you are giving or asking for information that is completely correct:

The journey took exactly three hours.
That'll be £15 exactly, please.
It tastes exactly the same as the real thing, but has half the fat.
The building looks exactly as it did when it was built in 1877.
"What you seem to be saying is that more should be invested in the road system and less in the railways." "Exactly" (= that is correct).

B1 used to emphasize what you are saying:

Do exactly what I tell you and no one will get hurt!
Exactly how do you propose to achieve this?
What exactly do you mean?
not exactly

used for saying that someone or something is slightly different from a particular way of describing him, her, or it:

He's not exactly good-looking, but he has a certain attraction.

B2 used for saying that something is not completely true:

"So you gave her your iPod?" "Not exactly, I lent it to her."

used for saying that something is the opposite of a particular way of describing it:

Answer the question - it's not exactly difficult.

More examples

  • Please describe to the court exactly what you saw.
  • No one knows exactly what happened but several people have been hurt.
  • I don't know exactly what's wrong with her - I think it's some sort of virus.
  • This jug holds exactly one pint.
  • I wanted to tell him exactly what I thought of him, but I managed to stop myself.

(Definition of “exactly” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"exactly" in American English

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exactlyadverb

us /ɪɡˈzækt·li/

exactly adverb (ACCURATELY)

in a complete and correct way; not more or less than a particular number, time, etc.:

We’ve come exactly 41 miles.
Make sure you measure the window exactly, otherwise the shade won’t fit.

Exactly is sometimes used to increase emphasis:

The businessmen who work in banking, she thought, all look exactly the same.
You’re exactly right.

(Definition of “exactly” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)