Involving or being the strict or primary meaning of the word or words; not figurative; not metaphorical; actual or factual, not exaggerated.
Note: Many people use literal when they don’t mean it, as in We were literally dead from exhaustion.
Anna Karenin is the most widely known of Tolstoy’s works and is generally regarded as his artistic masterpiece. It exhibits favorably his peculiar realism—a realism which consists not merely in the accuracy of literal description of actual types and conditions, but in an essential truthfulness which refuses to yield to the pressure of doctrine or the enticements of sentiment.
—Biographical Note Anna Karenin by Leo Tolstoy (1877)