What is the meaning of the word 'virtual' is it real? Fake? Created? Real looking like? What?

While virtual world means created by computer, if something is created as virtual device, is it for real? I mean tangible? Can you touch it? If so, why is it virtual? Another concept that I came across is virtual reality. Now again, if it's touchable, in this real world, why is it virtual?

Collins describe that as 'having the essence or effect but not the appearance or form of' - again is it for real, touchable, or imaginary? It gives an example of a virtual revolution! what's that now? Revolution happens for sure and you and I witness it, don't we? What's virtual in that again?

Finally, kindly tell me, if something is virtual is it visible, touchable, in real world or it's imaginary? If everything is imaginary, why do we have virtual assistant - an answering machine; Why do we have virtual devices? if they are imaginary? Sorry, if this all looks silly to natives! :)

  • 1
    Watch out for the adverb "virtually". It means pretty much the opposite of "virtual".
    – SF.
    Oct 13, 2014 at 12:26
  • That's another good point to make it even more complex! :)
    – Maulik V
    Oct 14, 2014 at 4:22

3 Answers 3


A virtual {x} means an emulated version of {x} or a simulacrum, not an actual {x}.

A virtual hard drive is not a mechanical device with moving and spinning parts but a RAM-resident data-structure that can be addressed by a computer program as if it were a physical hard drive.

Virtual reality consists of images and sounds and possibly other sensations, such as shaking or vibration, that are meant to give the person experiencing them the impression of being in an actual world.

A virtual assistant is not a flesh-and-blood secretary but a device that emulates some of the behaviors of the secretary or performs some of the functions of the secretary.

In the movie where the man falls in love with the voice on his smart-phone, the "entity" that speaks from the phone could be said to be his "virtual lover".


It is a word to refer to a thing that is not real, but is supposed to be real and/or is imagined.

For example: 'I will give you a virtual hug.' would mean that you are pretending, imagining, to give that person a hug. However, if you say 'I have a virtual house' then that means that you have a house existing in a computer simulation (or otherwise semi-realistic medium).


Virtual reality is a term referring to an artificially created reality by means that are possible with computer technology. - That would be my attempt to explain the term virtual reality. Mostly used in connection with computer games.

  • Virtual reality is also used in training. For example, flight simulators have produced a limited virtual reality since before that term became popular. Oct 15, 2014 at 0:14

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