The Meaning of Virtual: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of virtual? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word virtual, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word virtual mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word virtual is an adjective with a couple of different meanings. A person can use virtual to mean that something is nearly true, and can be regarded as true. The word virtual can also mean generated by a computer, or simulating real objects or activities. For example, people may state that an operating system, Bluetooth headset, computer software or hardware, a computer technique, a hard disk, a web site, a computer network, or anything else relating to a computer system or the means of a computer are virtual. Virtual in this sense means a product of the imagination, created not in actual fact but in cyberspace.

This word can be used in the literary criticism of a text. Many things can be virtual, including virtual ruin, a virtual machine, virtual photons, virtual media, a virtual dictator, a virtual revolution, virtual focus, a virtual tour of the museum, virtual dependence, a virtual classroom or virtual library, a virtual army, a virtual machine, a virtual world of his computer game, and more. Virtual is three syllables – vir-tu-al, and the pronunciation of virtual is vɜrtʃuəl. 

Many different languages also contain words that mean virtual. You may notice that some of these words look very similar to one another. These are called cognates. Cognates are words and phrases that look and sound similar between languages while also meaning something similar. These are often formed when two words have the same language of origin or root. This list of translations for the word virtual is provided by Word Sense

  •  Polish: wirtualny‎
  •  Swedish: virtuell‎
  •  Danish: virtuel‎
  •  Dutch: virtueel‎
  •  Latin: virtualis‎
  •  Italian: virtuale‎
  •  Turkish: sanal‎
  •  Georgian: ფაქტიური‎
  •  Esperanto: virtuala‎
  •  Maori: mariko‎
  •  Hebrew: ווירטואלי‎
  •  Greek: εικονικός‎ (masc.)
  •  Ukrainian: віртуальний‎ (virtuál’nyj)
  •  Catalan: virtual‎
  •  Finnish: näennäinen‎, virtuaalinen‎
  •  Korean: 사실상의‎
  •  German: eigentlich‎, virtuell‎
  •  Arabic: خَيَالِيّ‎
  •  Irish: fíorúil‎
  •  French: virtuel‎
  •  Spanish: virtual‎
  •  Persian: مجازی‎ (majāzī)
  •  Japanese: 仮想の‎ (かそうの, kasō no)
  •  Czech: virtuální‎ (masc.)
  •  Portuguese: virtual‎
  •  Bulgarian: виртуален‎ (virtuálen)
  •  Walloon: forveyou‎ (masc.)
  •  Russian: виртуа́льный‎
  •  Bengali: ভার্চুয়াল‎ (varcuẇal)

What are synonyms and antonyms of virtual?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word virtual. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another given word or phrase. Synonyms are a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word virtual is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  cyber
  •  all intents and purposes
  •  fake
  •  possible
  •  pseudo-
  •  pragmatic
  •  unreal
  •  factual
  •  basic
  •  mock
  •  imitation
  •  simulated
  •  unacknowledged
  •  intrinsic
  •  computer-generated
  •  potential
  •  mechanized
  •  implicit
  •  semi-
  •  real
  •  realistic
  •  computational
  •  actual
  •  make-believe
  •  constructive
  •  substantial
  •  internet
  •  cyber-
  •  computerized
  •  pretend
  •  cybernetic
  •  artificial
  •  indirect
  •  online
  •  in all but name
  •  networked
  •  virtually
  •  fundamental
  •  practical
  •  real life
  •  implied
  •  tacit
  •  near
  •  in effect
  •  effective
  •  high-tech
  •  essential
  •  electronic
  •  near enough
  •  inferred

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word virtual. These are called antonyms, which are opposite words to synonyms. These words contain the opposite meaning of a given word or phrase. This list of antonyms for the word virtual is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  illusory
  •  unlawful
  •  pure
  •  unmixed
  •  congested
  •  unofficial
  •  proper
  •  accurate
  •  capable of being touched
  •  authentic
  •  palpable
  •  contraband
  •  concrete
  •  surreal
  •  profound
  •  resolute
  •  inessential
  •  unworkable
  •  reliable
  •  precise
  •  unachievable
  •  unmistakable
  •  off
  •  clean-cut
  •  authoritative
  •  being realistic
  •  genuine
  •  copied
  •  tangible
  •  certain
  •  factual
  •  not in line with
  •  assertive
  •  unquestionable
  •  notional
  •  existent
  •  peremptory
  •  obvious
  •  reproduction
  •  unrealistic
  •  actual
  •  very
  •  veritable
  •  unreal
  •  fictitious
  •  absolute
  •  real
  •  hypothetical
  •  imaginary
  •  indefinable

What is the origin of the word virtual?

According to Etymonline, the word virtual has been used since late c14 as the Middle English virtuall to mean influencing by physical virtues or capabilities. This comes from the Medieval Latin virtualis/Medieval Latin virtuālis, and Latin virtus/Latin virtūs virtue meaning “excellence, potency, efficacy.” The literal meaning was manliness or manhood. Using the word virtual to mean “being something in essence or effect, though not actually or in fact” has occurred since mid-c15. This was probably formed via the sense of “capable of producing a certain effect,” used in early c15 Middle English. The computer sense of only existing in software and not real life has occurred since 1959.

How can the word virtual be used in a sentence?

The word virtual can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to remember their definitions. You can also try to make flashcards or quizzes for yourself to test your knowledge. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a few different examples of the word virtual to get you started. 

The measurable part of the particle they examined under the microscope on Thursday in physics class was so small it was virtually nonexistent. 

He was born with so much inherent power, he was virtually a dictator by age nine. The recent corruption was coming a mile away. The angry peasants created a field of force as they stormed the castle.

Because the school was unable to enforce a mask policy, they mandated virtual learning until the last Friday of the school year to limit interactions and the agency of the material by which the disease was spread. This different implementation pleased some and angered others.

Overall, the word virtual means nearly true and as such regarded as true. It can also mean existing in software and not in real life. This word is of Latin origins.


  1. virtual: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Virtual synonyms – 375 Words and Phrases for Virtual | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Virtual antonyms – 53 Opposites of Virtual | Power Thesaurus 
  4. virtual | Origin and meaning of virtual | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Virtual definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary