There are some adverbs of emphasis in the spoken language that I find really interesting.

Examples :

Badly, Awfully, Terribly = To a great degree.
(I wanted it so badly.) , (It's not terribly common.)

Royally = Utterly. (He screwed up royally.)

Literally = Virtually. (He was literally millions of miles ahead of the other runners.) source

Officially : (I'm officially cold now.)

I'm so curious to know if there are similar adverbs of emphasis even if they are regional.

SarahT's answer was great, that was exactly the kind of adverbs I was looking for. I'd love to see if there are more adverbs like these in the spoken language.

  • 1
    There are a lot. An incredible amount, really. Do you want all of them (almost impossible), a sampling of them (possibly helpful, but never complete), or a place to find more of them (not what the questions asks right now)? Apr 3, 2020 at 1:02
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    "Literally" means "exactly" not "virtually." People abuse this poor word all the time. I know it's a losing battle. But, if you use it incorrectly, some people might notice!
    – SarahT
    Apr 3, 2020 at 1:21
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    @SarahT right , actually what I find interesting is the new meanings and the contexts in which these adverbs can be used , I mean the really unnecessary exaggeration which sounds funny to me. I would say all of them are misused , but this is how resilient English is and I love that.
    – Mohammad
    Apr 3, 2020 at 1:37
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    @Moha okay, I understand now! "My head will literally explode!" um... no it won't. It is pretty funny to think about.
    – SarahT
    Apr 3, 2020 at 1:42
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    "Biblical" is sometimes used in kind of a joking way to suggest that something truly terrible is going to happen, like when God smites people in the Old Testament.
    – SarahT
    Apr 6, 2020 at 22:56

5 Answers 5


Deadly, as in "deadly dull" Fiercely, as in "fiercely committed" Spanking, as in "spanking new"

Monstrously, wickedly, roaringly, frightfully, hugely

There are certainly regional differences. "Frightfully" sounds British to me; "majorly" was common in the 1980s in California where I grew up (see also, "hella"). "Wicked good" is East Coast.


The question appears to seek examples of adverbs that are widely used in contemporary vernacular to emphasize the severity of a situation, yet in such contexts understood not to convey any accurate or literal quality.

The six examples all have this usage, but note that preference varies widely according to dialect. The prior three, badly, awfully, and terribly, enjoy an established status among British elite. The latter three, royally, literally, and officially, are likely to have gained popularity through young Americans, especially white and middle class, of Generation X.

Such usages fall into a variety of categories:

  1. Negative words used ironically to portray a positive quality:

    • insanely: insanely beautiful
    • wildly: wildly successful
    • frightfully: frightfully clever
    • crazy (no adverbial inflection, i.e. no -ly suffix): crazy rich
  2. Negative words used with exaggeration or metaphor to express distaste:

    • seriously: seriously painful
    • ridiculously: ridiculously tired
    • outrageously: outrageously expensive
    • absurdly: absurdly cold
    • impossibly: impossibly long
    • dreadfully: dreadfully dull
  3. Words used in combination with particular others to such an extent that in each case the former has become a ubiquitous means to emphasize the latter, but is not as often used with a similar intention in other contexts:

    • painfully: painfully slow
    • fabulously: fabulously wealthy
    • absolutely: absolutely terrified
    • brilliantly: brilliantly funny
    • madly: madly in love
    • devilishly: devilishly handsome
    • eerily: eerily familiar
    • deadly: deadly serious
    • basically: basically correct or basically right
    • grossly: grossly underestimated or grossly underrated
    • fundamentally: fundamentally flawed, fundamentally broken, or fundamentally dysfunctional
  4. Words that have acquired a specific idiomatic meaning of emphasis, but only with some specific other word:

    • drop-dead: drop-dead gorgeous
    • stupid: stupid smart (i.e. so smart that everyone else feels stupid)

I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here are a few of them that I find interesting:

  • "Nearly there"
  • "Fractionally up"
  • "Marginally low"
  • "Alarmingly high"
  • "Completely gone"
  • "Extensively widespread"
  • "Abnormally large"
  • "Wickedly smart"
  • "Breathtakingly beautiful"
  • "Crazy smart"

Some phrases uses comparative ways to emphasize the magnitude or degree,

  • Burning hot
  • Ice cold
  • Ghostly silence
  • Freezing water
  • Mind-numbingly stupid
  • Heart-stopping experience

All of these would mean the same thing if you take off the first part, but it is often used, mostly in spoken language, rather than written, to emphasize on the magnitude.


No list could be completely inexhaustible, but here are some that spring to mind, grouped as best I can:

  • There are some adverbs of emphasis related to size: Hugely, immensely, enormously

  • There are those related to excess or degree: excessively, extremely, unduly, inordinately

  • Others elevate the adjective, such as: royally, magnificently, beautifully, splendidly, gorgeously, superbly

  • And there are those related to completeness or genuineness: Truly, honestly, absolutely, completely, positively, genuinely, actually.

As I said - not a complete list by any means, nor are they limited to these categories I have put them into. But nearly all of these I'm sure could be stretched to be used beyond their root meanings, as in your examples. "Hugely grateful", for example, has nothing to do with physical size.

I would say that most emphasising adverbs can be stretched to fit other contexts, so long as their use does not create a logical fallacy. It is common for adverbs to become a crutch word for individuals - that is one that they fall back onto and overuse in speech. "Literally" and "obviously" are two common examples of this. When this happens, they are more likely to be used incorrectly. However, language changes over time, and as you noted in your post the adverb "literally" is frequently used to mean almost the exact opposite of its original definition and this usage has even been accepted into the dictionary.


Common intensifying adverbs: Definitely, surely, sensationally, brilliantly, bloody, absolutely, bitterly, certainly, clearly, completely, definitely, deadly, dreadfully, enormously, exactly, extremely, fairly, highly, incredibly, naturally, obviously, perfectly, positively, really, ridiculously, highly, totally, devilishly, devastatingly, undoubtedly.

Here are some nice ones:

If you want to show that something surprises you, you can use surprisingly, or, for more emphasis, amazingly or incredibly or miraculously.

From there on it's outside my pay bracket.

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