Literal translation

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time (Latin: "verbum pro verbo") with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.

In translation studies, "literal translation" denotes technical translation of scientific, technical, technological or legal texts.[1]

In translation theory, another term for "literal translation" is "metaphrase"; and for phrasal ("sense") translation — "paraphrase."

When considered a bad practice of conveying word by word (lexeme to lexeme, or morpheme to lexeme) translation of non-technical type literal translations has the meaning of mistranslating idioms,[2] for example, or in the context of translating an analytic language to a synthetic language, it renders even the grammar unintelligible.

The concept of literal translation may be viewed as an oxymoron (contradiction in terms), given that literal denotes something existing without interpretation, whereas a translation, by its very nature, is an interpretation (an interpretation of the meaning of words from one language into another).

The term as used in translation studies


The term "literal translation" often appeared in the titles of 19th-century English translations of classical, Bible and other texts.


Literal translations ("cribs," "ponies", or "trots") are sometimes prepared for a writer who is translating a work written in a language he does not know. For example, Robert Pinsky is reported to have used a literal translation in preparing his translation of Dante's Inferno (1994), as he does not know Italian.[citation needed] Similarly, Richard Pevear worked from literal translations provided by his wife, Larissa Volokhonsky, in their translations of several Russian novels.[citation needed]

Poetry to prose

Literal translation can also denote a translation that represents the precise meaning of the original text but does not attempt to convey its style, beauty, or poetry. There is, however, a great deal of difference between a literal translation of a poetic work and a prose translation. A literal translation of poetry may be in prose rather than verse, but also be error free. Charles Singleton's translation of The Divine Comedy (1975) is regarded as a prose translation.

Other Languages
العربية: ترجمة حرفية
Bân-lâm-gú: Ti̍t-e̍k
čeština: Literalismus
한국어: 직역
Bahasa Indonesia: Arti harfiah
日本語: 直訳と意訳
русский: Буквализм
Simple English: Literal translation
Türkçe: Birebir çeviri
中文: 直译