Definition of “real” - English Dictionary

“real” in British English

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uk /rɪəl/ us /ˈriː.əl/

real adjective (NOT IMAGINARY)

A2 existing in fact and not imaginary:

Assuring the patient that she has a real and not imaginary problem is the first step.
There is a very real threat that he will lose his job.
real earnings, income, etc.

the value of earnings, etc. after the effect of rising prices is considered:

Wages rose by 2.9 percent last year, but real earnings still fell by 1.3 percent.
in real terms

after considering things that affect what a number or amount really means, such as the effect of rising prices:

Average earnings rose 5 percent in real terms after deducting income tax.
the real world

things as they really are, not as they exist in the imagination, in a story, on the internet, etc.:

Over-protecting children does not equip them to deal with the real world.
Why waste time on virtual friendships, when there are people out there in the real world who want to spend time with you?
See also

More examples

  • She has a real feel for language.
  • Was King Arthur a real or a legendary character?
  • Politicians these days are more interested in playing to the gallery than exercising real influence on world events.
  • Most modern kings and queens rule their countries only in a formal way, without real power.
  • The main political parties are merely shadow-boxing, instead of tackling the real economic problems facing this country.

real adjective (NOT FALSE)

A2 [ before noun ] being what it appears to be and not false:

Is that a toy gun or the real thing?

[ before noun ] UK approving (especially of foods) produced using traditional methods and without artificial substances:

The pub sells several kinds of real ale (= traditional beer).
for real B2 informal

real, not pretended:

I thought it was just a drill but apparently it was for real.

More examples

  • You can always tell a real bow tie from one that clips on.
  • "Is that real fur on your collar?" "Certainly not - I only wear fake fur."
  • Those flowers aren't real - they're made of plastic.
  • George Orwell was a pseudonym - his real name was Eric Blair.
  • It turned out that he wasn't a real doctor at all - he was just a sham.

real adjective (IMPORTANT)

B2 [ before noun ] the most important; the main:

The real difficulty was the language, because my children don't speak English.
Novelty value may be a part of it, but the real reason people like our paper is that it speaks the truth.

More examples

  • Knowledge of languages is a real asset in this sort of work.
  • My one real vice is chocolate.
  • Creativity, ingenuity and flair are the songwriter's real talents.
  • The real disease affecting the country is inflation.
  • The proposal was dismissed as a diversionary tactic intended to distract attention from the real problems.

real adjective (VERY GREAT)

B2 [ before noun ] used to emphasize a noun:

He's a real gentleman.
She was a real help.
It's a real nuisance.

More examples

  • I get a real kick out of owning my own car.
  • She picked up some real bargains in the sale.
  • You were right about Pete - he's a real troublemaker.
  • You gave us a real scare when you fainted, you know.
  • It was a real culture shock to find herself in London after living on a small island.


uk /rɪəl/ us /ˈriː.əl/ mainly US informal

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

“real” in American English

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us /ˈri·əl, ril/

real adjective (ACTUAL)

existing in fact; not imaginary:

There is a real possibility that he will lose his job.
This is a true story about real people.

real adjective (NOT FALSE)

being what it appears to be; genuine:

Are those flowers real or fake?
The chest of drawers is a real antique.

real adjective (VERY GREAT)

[ not gradable ] very great or to a great degree:

He’s a real gentleman.
The current situation is a real mess.


realadverb [ not gradable ]

us /ˈri·əl, ril/ infml

real adverb [ not gradable ] (VERY GREAT)

in a very great way or to a great degree:

I get cold real easy.
It’s real nice to meet you.

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

“real” in Business English

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realadjective [ before noun ]

uk /rɪəl/ us

ECONOMICS after considering the effects of inflation:

Wages rose by 2.9% last year, but real earnings still fell by 1.3%.
Japan's economy grew by 1.5% in real terms in the first quarter.

(Definition of “real” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)