AskDefine | Define virtual

Dictionary Definition

virtual adj
1 being actually such in almost every respect; "a practical failure"; "the once elegant temple lay in virtual ruin" [syn: virtual(a), practical(a)]
2 being such in essence or effect though not in actual fact; "a virtual dependence on charity"; "a virtual revolution"; "virtual reality" [syn: virtual(a)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From virtualis from virtus.


  • (UK) /ˈvɜːtʃuəl/, /"v3:tSu@l/
  • (US) /ˈvɝtʃuəl/, /"v3`tSu@l/
  • Hyphenation: vir·tu·al


  1. In effect or essence, if not in fact or reality; imitated, simulated, substantial.
    In fact a defeat on the battlefield, Tet was a virtual victory for the North, owing to its effect on public opinion.
    Virtual addressing allows applications to believe that there is much more physical memory than actually exists.
  2. Nearly, almost. (A relatively recent corruption of meaning, attributed to misuse in advertising and media.)
    The angry peasants were a virtual army as they attacked the castle.
    ...leaves your dishes virtually spotless.
  3. Of something that is simulated in a computer or on-line.
    The virtual world of his computer game allowed character interaction.''




in effect; not fact
simulated in a computer
  • French: virtuel
  • Italian: virtuale
nearly, almost

Extensive Definition

The term virtual is a concept applied in many fields with somewhat differing connotations, and also, differing denotations.
Colloquially, 'virtual' has a similar meaning to 'quasi-' or 'pseudo-' (prefixes which themselves have quite different meanings), meaning something that is almost something else, particularly when used in the adverbial form e.g., "He's virtually [almost] my boyfriend". The term recently has been defined philosophically as, that which is not real, but may display the full qualities of the real. However, 'virtual' is ultimately fake.


Numerous philosophers have advanced conceptions of the virtual. Most prominent of these in contemporary philosophy has been Gilles Deleuze, who uses the term virtual to refer to something that every object carries with it, which is neither its reality, nor merely what it could have been, but rather what it is imagined to be. "Virtual" is therefore taken to mean a potential state that could become actual. "Virtual" is not opposed to "real" but opposed to "actual," whereas "real" is opposed to "possible." This definition, which is almost indistinguishable from potential, originates in medieval Scholastics and the pseudo-Latin "virtualis".
Recently this conception of the virtual has been challenged and another core meaning has been elicited by (Denis Berthier, "Meditations on the real and the virtual" — in French), based on uses in science (virtual image), technology (virtual world), and etymology (derivation from virtue — Latin virtus At the same ontological level as "possible," "real," or "potential," "virtual" is defined as that which is not real, but displays the full qualities of the real — in a plainly actual (i.e., not potential) — way. The prototypical case is a reflection in a mirror: it is already there, whether or not one can see it; it is not waiting for any kind of actualization. This definition allows one to understand that real effects may be issued from a virtual object, so that our perception of it and our whole relation to it, are fully real, even if it is not. It explains that virtual reality may be used to cure phobias — which remains contradictory in any conception for which the virtual is a kind of potential.

Computer technology

Early motivations for applying 'virtual' to computers were sharing of actual devices by many users and coordination of multiple processes, as seen with the successful use of the virtual machine approach. Internet and communication technology fostered de-coupling of space where events happen, and storage technologies facilitate de-coupling of time between a message being sent and received. These technologies build the environment for virtual work in teams, with members who may never meet each other in person. Communicating by telephone and e-mail, with work products shared electronically, virtual teams produce results without being co-located.
Similarly, a virtual world is a type of habitation founded upon web technology that allows interactions for pursuits, such as economy and real estate.

See also

virtual in Urdu: مجازی
virtual in German: Virtuell
virtual in French: Virtuel
virtual in Dutch: Virtueel
virtual in Portuguese: Virtual
virtual in Slovenian: Virtualnost
virtual in Chinese: 虚拟

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1