1. true; not merely ostensible, nominal, or apparent: the real reason for an act.
  2. existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious: a story taken from real life.
  3. being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary: The events you will see in the film are real and not just made up.
  4. being actually such; not merely so-called: a real victory.
  5. genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic: a real antique; a real diamond; real silk.
  6. unfeigned or sincere: real sympathy; a real friend.
  7. Informal. absolute; complete; utter: She’s a real brain.
  8. Philosophy.
    1. existent or pertaining to the existent as opposed to the nonexistent.
    2. actual as opposed to possible or potential.
    3. independent of experience as opposed to phenomenal or apparent.
  9. (of money, income, or the like) measured in purchasing power rather than in nominal value: Inflation has driven income down in real terms, though nominal income appears to be higher.
  10. Optics. (of an image) formed by the actual convergence of rays, as the image produced in a camera (opposed to virtual).
  11. Mathematics.
    1. of, relating to, or having the value of a real number.
    2. using real numbers: real analysis; real vector space.


  1. Informal. very or extremely: You did a real nice job painting the house.


  1. real number.
  2. the real,
    1. something that actually exists, as a particular quantity.
    2. reality in general.
  1. for real, Informal.
    1. in reality; actually: You mean she dyed her hair green for real?
    2. real; actual: The company’s plans to relocate are for real.
    3. genuine; sincere: I don’t believe his friendly attitude is for real.

noun, plural re·als [rey-ahlz] /reɪˈɑlz/, Spanish re·a·les [re-ah-les] /rɛˈɑ lɛs/.

  1. a former silver coin of Spain and Spanish America, the eighth part of a peso.


  1. singular of reis.


  1. existing or occurring in the physical world; not imaginary, fictitious, or theoretical; actual
  2. (prenominal) true; actual; not falsethe real reason
  3. (prenominal) deserving the name; rightly so calleda real friend; a real woman
  4. not artificial or simulated; genuinereal sympathy; real fur
  5. (of food, etc) traditionally made and having a distinct flavourreal ale; real cheese
  6. philosophy existent or relating to actual existence (as opposed to nonexistent, potential, contingent, or apparent)
  7. (prenominal) economics (of prices, incomes, wages, etc) considered in terms of purchasing power rather than nominal currency value
  8. (prenominal) denoting or relating to immovable property such as land and tenementsreal property Compare personal
  9. physics Compare image (def. 2)
  10. maths involving or containing real numbers alone; having no imaginary part
  11. music
    1. (of the answer in a fugue) preserving the intervals as they appear in the subject
    2. denoting a fugue as having such an answerCompare tonal (def. 3)
  12. informal (intensifier)a real fool; a real genius
  13. the real thing the genuine article, not an inferior or mistaken substitute


  1. short for real number
  2. the real that which exists in fact; reality
  3. for real slang not as a test or trial; in earnest

noun plural reals or reales (Spanish reˈales)

  1. a former small Spanish or Spanish-American silver coin

noun plural reis (rəjʃ)

  1. the standard monetary unit of Brazil, divided into 100 centavos
  2. a former coin of Portugal

early 14c., “actually existing, true;” mid-15c., “relating to things” (especially property), from Old French reel “real, actual,” from Late Latin realis “actual,” in Medieval Latin “belonging to the thing itself,” from Latin res “matter, thing,” of uncertain origin. Meaning “genuine” is recorded from 1550s; sense of “unaffected, no-nonsense” is from 1847.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. [Margery Williams, “The Velveteen Rabbit”]

Real estate is first recorded 1660s and retains the oldest English sense of the word. Noun phrase real time is early 19c. as a term in logic and philosophy, 1953 as an adjectival phrase; get real, usually an interjection, was U.S. college slang in 1960s, reached wide popularity c.1987.


“small Spanish silver coin,” 1580s, from Spanish real, noun use of real (adj.) “regal,” from Latin regalis “regal” (see regal). Especially in reference to the real de plata, which circulated in the U.S. till c.1850 and in Mexico until 1897. The same word was used in Middle English in reference to various coins, from Old French real, cognate of the Spanish word.

The old system of reckoning by shillings and pence is continued by retail dealers generally; and will continue, as long as the Spanish coins remain in circulation. [Bartlett, “Dictionary of Americanisms,” 1848]

He adds that, due to different exchange rates of metal to paper money in the different states, the Spanish money had varying names from place to place. The Spanish real of one-eighth of a dollar or 12 and a half cents was a ninepence in New England, one shilling in New York, elevenpence or a levy in Pennsylvania, “and in many of the Southern States, a bit.” The half-real was in New York a sixpence, in New England a fourpence, in Pennsylvania a fip, in the South a picayune.

In addition to the idiom beginning with real

  • real McCoy, the

also see:

  • for real
  • get real
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