From the second edition (1989):
verbal, a. and n.
(ˈvɜːbəl) Also 6–7 verbale, -all(e. [a. OF. (also mod.F.) verbal (= Sp. and Pg. verbal, It. verbale), or ad. L. verbālis consisting of words, pertaining to verbs, f. verbum word, verb.]


A. adj.


1. Of persons: a. Dealing in or with words, esp. with mere words in contrast to things or realities.

1484 Caxton Curiall 4 We be verbal or ful of wordes and desyre more the wordes than the thynges. 1613 Purchas Pilgrimage (1614) 38 Henoch himselfe is made, not a verball but a reall Preacher. 1648 Milton Tenure Kings (1650) 58 While they are onely verbal against the punishing of Tyrants, all the Scripture they bring is direct to inferr it altogether lawful. 1677 in Hubbard Indian Wars (1865) II. 275, I am perswaded if Mars and Minerva go Hand in Hand, they will effect more Good in an Hour than those verbal Mercurians in their Lives. 1770 Beattie Ess. on Truth Introd. (1776) 4 A verbal disputant! what claim can he have to the title of Philosopher?


b. Using many words; talkative, verbose; ready to use words; articulate. Now rare.

1611 Shakes. Cymb. ii. iii. 111, I am much sorry (Sir) You put me to forget a Ladies manners By being so verball. 1620 Middleton Chaste Maid i. i, He's growne too verball, this Learning is a great Witch. 1647 Lilly Chr. Astrol. i. xiii. 78 A meer verball fellow, frothy,‥constant in nothing but idle words and bragging. 1976 National Observer (U.S.) 12 June 15/2 It's made a difference.‥ She's more confident and verbal.


c. Interested in, attending to, the mere words of a literary composition.

1709 Pope Ess. Crit. 264 Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays, For not to know some trifles, is a praise. 1782 V. Knox Ess. xxxiii. (1819) I. 180 It is from the labours of verbal critics, that our language will receive the only excellencies it wanted. 1855 Paley Æschylus Pref. (1861) p. xxviii, Hermann, the leader of the verbal-critics.


2. a. Consisting or composed of words; also, of or pertaining to, manifested in, words.
verbal inspiration: see inspiration 3a.

1530 Palsgr. 327/2 Verball, full of wordes, verbal, verballe. 1589 Cooper Admon. 60 As he and other of his crewe babbling in their verbale sermons vse to doe. 1592 Shakes. Ven. & Ad. 831 All the neighbour caves, as seeming troubled, Make verbal repetition of her moans. 1620 W. Folkingham Brachigraphy i, Short-writing is either of the bare Letter, or of Words composed of Letters. That I call Literall or Elementall, this Dictionall or Verball. 1662 Hibbert Body Divinity i. 253 There is a threefold lie.‥ 1. Verbal, when a man tells a false tale. 1677 Govt. Venice 163 The Council of Ten having stretched their Law against Treason, to Verbal Expressions. 1722 Wollaston Relig. Nat. i. 9 Now‥what has a meaning, may be either true or false; which is as much as can be said of any verbal sentence. 1751 Johnson Rambler No. 140 ⁋11 Samson's complaint of the inconveniences of imprisonment is not wholly without verbal quaintness. 1791 Gentl. Mag. 26/2 Several pages of his sermons consisting of a series of verbal quibbles and jingles. 1820 Hazlitt Table-T. Ser. ii. iii. (1869) 72 We cannot by a little verbal sophistry confound the qualities of different minds. 1868 Peard Water-farm. vi. 67 Instead of a verbal description, we will give a rough sketch of the nursery. 1874 Green Short Hist. vii. §7. 424 The young playwright quizzes the verbal wit and high-flown extravagance of thought and phrase which Euphues had made fashionable.


b. Of the nature of, or denoting, a word.

1605 Tryall Chev. iii. iii, Bourbon! who names him? that same verball sound Is like a thunderclap to Philips eares. 1690 Locke Hum. Und. ii. xi. §8 These verbal signs they [sc. children] sometimes borrow from others, and sometimes make themselves. 1701 Grew Cosmol. Sacra ii. vi. 68 Observing by degrees, that all Words consist of a certain Number of Simple Sounds; they‥brought them [sc. marks], from many Thousands of Verbal Marks, to Two or Four and twenty Literal ones.


c. verbal process (also process verbal), a detailed account or report. [After F. procès-verbal.]

1682 Burnet Rights Princes viii. 263 In the Process Verbal of the Assembly General of the Clergy of France. 1688 Lond. Gaz. No. 2330/2 But the Nuncio and Clergy‥have drawn up a Verbal Process of all that passed, which they have transmitted to Rome. 1749 Smollett Gil Blas vii. xv, I took an inventory of the particulars, of which I formed in my pocket-book a small verbal process. 1756–9 A. Butler Lives of Saints, St. Jane Frances, He left an authentic verbal process of this vision, but as of a third person. 1762 Ann. Reg. i. 129 The next day, what is called the verbal process, was taken at the town-house.‥ This verbal process is somewhat like our coroner's inquest.


d. verbal note, in diplomacy, an unsigned note or memorandum sent as a mere reminder of some matter not of immediate importance.

1860 Wharton Law-Lex. (ed. 2).


e. verbal diarrhœa (colloq.), a tendency to talk too much; extreme verbosity. Cf. diarrhœa 2.

1823 London Mag. Sept. 281/1 All our modern tragedists indulge in‥the talking-principle.‥ A verbal diarrhoea is the epidemic disease which afflicts the whole tribe. 1938 N. Marsh Death in White Tie xiii. 146 Her chief complaint is‥acute verbal diarrhoea. 1981 N. J. Crisp Festival vi. 142 This fathead suffers from verbal diarrhoea.


f. verbal conditioning (Psychol.), the reinforcing of certain verbal responses with the object of establishing the use of particular words or ways of speaking.

1954 Jrnl. Exper. Psychol. XLVIII. 355 (title) Influence of awareness of reinforcement on verbal conditioning. 1967 M. Argyle Psychol. Interpersonal Behaviour vii. 131 People may embark on all kinds of self-improvement,‥including the modification of styles of interaction as in operant verbal conditioning. 1971 Jrnl. Gen. Psychol. Apr. 267 Verb impression value‥was an important variable influencing response tendencies in verbal~conditioning and sentence-making tasks. 1979 J. P. Houston et al. Invitation to Psychol. v. 177 Verbal conditioning is another example of reward training in which a particular response is rewarded if it occurs.


3. a. Concerned with, affecting or involving, words only, without touching things or realities.

1605 Bacon Adv. Learn. ii. 36 Socrates‥separated Philosophy and Rhetoricke, whereupon Rhetorick became an emptie and verball Art. 1611 Bible Transl. Pref. ⁋16 Wee might iustly feare hard censure, if generally wee should make verball and vnnecessary changings. 1690 Locke Hum. Und. iii. xi. §7 Whether the greatest part of the Disputes in the World, are not meerly Verbal, and about the Signification of Words. a1761 Law Comf. Weary Pilgr. (1809) 122 Men fallen from the‥truth of the Christian life under the power of natural reason, and verbal learning. 1785 T. Reid Powers Hum. Mind iv. 369 If all the general words of a language had a precise meaning,‥all verbal disputes would be at an end. 1807 Knox & Jebb's Corr. I. 372 If our liturgy‥had been cast‥in a vulgar mould; subsequent alterations, not only verbal but radical, would have been indispensable. c1820 Whately Logic in Encycl. Metrop. (1845) I. 224/1 A definition of the term‥; viz. a verbal, not necessarily a real definition. 1875 Jowett Plato (ed. 2) V. 121 The opposition between these two modes of speaking is rather verbal than real.


b. Finding expression in words only, without being manifested in action.

1622 Rowlands Good Newes & B. 32 Telling him that her selfe, and her estate Is not to be obtain'd with verball prate Of loue, and fancie. 1639 Massinger Unnat. Combat iv. i, Nor shall you find A verbal friendship in me, but an active. 1690 C. Nesse Hist. & Myst. O. & N.T. I. 68 They put not God off with empty complements, and verbal acknowledgments. a1718 Prior Knowledge 706 My Prophets, and my Sophists finish'd here Their Civil Efforts of the Verbal War. 1741 Butler Serm. Wks. 1874 II. 256 These merely verbal professions‥were thought the proper language for the public ear. 1838 Thirlwall Greece xli. V. 173 Some solid and extraordinary benefit, something‥beyond a mere verbal recognition of its independence.


c. Consisting merely in words or speech.

1618 Bolton Florus (1636) 301 How true is that speech‥That vertue was only a verbal thing, and not a real. 1633 P. Fletcher Purple Isl. vii. v, Of these great monarchies‥Onely a fading verball memorie, And empty name in writ is left behinde. 1653 Milton Hirelings Wks. 1851 V. 349 But our Ministers‥for the verbal labor of a seventh days Preachment‥exact as due the tenth‥of our‥Labors.


4. a. Expressed or conveyed by speech instead of writing; stated or delivered by word of mouth; oral.

1591 Horsey Trav. (Hakluyt Soc.) 241 His Majestys verball answer to those two points conteyned within her Majestys letters. 1617 Moryson Itin. i. 193 The Chamber of the Pallace where verball appeales are decided, is called, the Golden Chamber. 1646 Hamilton Papers (Camden) 131 The gentleman‥carried nothing from hence in writing; but I belieue he had a verbal commission. 1667 Pepys Diary 14 June, He did it by verbal order from Sir W. Coventry. 1727 Swift Poisoning of E. Curll Wks. 1755 III. i. 150 Mr. Curll‥immediately proceeded to make a verbal will. 1728 Chambers Cycl. s.v., A Verbal Contract, is that made merely by Word of Mouth; in opposition to that made in Writing. 1776 Trial Nundocomar 61/2 Did you send a verbal or a written message? 1807 J. Landseer Lect. Engraving Pref. 8 The verbal communications of Sir Henry Englefield, and Mr. Douce; the printed researches of Raspe, Hayley,‥and various other authors. 1834 Marryat P. Simple xiv, Sending a polite verbal refusal to the commissioner, upon the plea of there being no paper or pens on board. 1877 Froude Short Stud. (1883) IV. i. iii. 37 The archbishop believed that a verbal agreement was all which would be demanded of him.


b. Of persons: Using uttered words.

1822 Scott Nigel i, The verbal proclaimers of the excellence of their commodities, had this advantage over those who‥use the public papers for the same purpose.


5. a. Corresponding word for word; = verbatim a.

1612 Brinsley Lud. Lit. 238, I take the very same help of translations, either Verball or Grammaticall, to be the most speedy furtherances. 1656 Cowley Pindar. Odes Pref., When he that understands not the Original [of Pindar] reads the verbal Traduction of him into Latin Prose. 1712 Addison Spect. No. 464 ⁋1 Of this kind is a beautiful saying in Theognis;‥ to give it in the Verbal Translation, Among Men [etc.]. 1786 Jefferson Writ. (1859) II. 46 You will perceive that it is almost a verbal Copy. 1909 R. Law Tests of Life ii. 29 We have what may be supposed to be almost verbal quotations of current forms of Gnostic profession.


b. In respect of each single word.

1790 Paley Horæ Paul. i. 4 In close and verbal conformity with the account‥preserved by St. Luke. 1882 Farrar Early Chr. I. 443 note, The sacred writers never aim at verbal accuracy in their quotations.


6. Of, pertaining to, or derived from a verb.

1530 Palsgr. 37 They come of latyn nownes verballes endyng in tio. Ibid. 154 All nownes verballes endyng in eur be of the masculyne gendre. 1636 B. Jonson Eng. Gram. xvi. Wks. (Rtldg.) 780/1 A person is the special difference of a verbal number, whereof the present, and the time past, have in every number three. 1648 Hexham ii. Gramm. (1658) Vu4b/2 All Substantives derived from Verbals are called Verball words. 1706 Phillips (ed. Kersey), Verbals or Verbal Nouns, those Nouns that are derived from Verbs; as Considerable,‥from the Verb, To consider. 1755 Johnson, Abandoning. (A verbal noun from abandon.) c1818 Encycl. Metrop. (1845) I. 54/2 Verbal adjectives (commonly so called), which express the conception in the form of an attribute, as the Latin verbals in bilis, &c. 1843 Proc. Philol. Soc. I. 31 The Grammar proceeds to describe other verbal derivatives. 1875 Whitney Life Lang. iii. 38 The plural verbal inflection.


7. Forming compound adjs. with the sense ‘verbal and —’, as verbal-acoustic, verbal-metrical, verbal-visual, etc.

1901 E. B. Titchener Exper. Psychol. I. xii. 393 The verbal-motor type stands, in the author's experience, next in order of frequency to the visual. 1911 S. S. Colvin Learning Processes vii. 107 If I recall the name as written or printed on a page, I have a verbal-visual image; if I recall the name as spoken by some one, I have a verbal-acoustic image; if I recall the name in terms of the movements of my throat in speaking, I have a verbal-motor image. 1948 L. Spitzer Linguistics & Lit. Hist. 201 The verbal-metrical scheme of the strophe. 1972 R. E. Ornstein Psychol. of Consciousness ii. 39 The scientist, the writer, the mathematician are examples of the culturally ‘dominant’ verbal-rational mode. Ibid. x. 225 Modern Science is primarily verbal-logical.


B. n.


1. Gram. A noun, or other part of speech, derived from a verb.

1530 Palsgr. 154 Broderésse, a woman brodurar,‥tenceresse, a woman chyder; and so of all other verballes. 1570 Levins Manip. 89 Some verbals in bilis. 1591 Percivall Sp. Dict. B4b, Verbals in or, are of the masculine gender. c1620 A. Hume Brit. Tongue (1865) 19 [Words] that we derive from latin verbales in tio, sould also be wrytten with t. 1665 R. Johnson Scholars Guide 6 The Latine tongue loves Verbals, Participials, Gerundives, and Participles of the future in rus. 1726 S. Lowe Lat. Gram. 12 Verbals are wanting, for the most part in Impersonals. ?a1800 Lett. on Eng. & Fr. Nation I. 293 (Jod.), The rules of etymology and formation of Greek verbals evince that it must be so. 1836 J. R. Major Guide Grk. Trag. 105 A is long before µα in verbals derived from the first person of the preterite passive. 1882 F. W. Newman Libyan Vocab. 38 Kabail Verbs and Verbals, including Adjectives.


2. [After med.L. verbale.] A collection of words; a vocabulary or dictionary. Obs. rare.

1599 Bk. Preserv. K. Hen. VII, i, Untill I have set forth a Verball or little Dictionarie. 1623 T. Spicer in Cockeram Eng. Dict. Avijb, To the Reader on this Verball of his esteemed friend, Master Henry Cockeram of Exeter.


3. Gram. A word or group of words performing the function of a verb.

1935 [see particle n. 3]. 1965 Amer. Speech XL. 206 Adverbials which serve purely as modifiers of sentences and verbals. 1978 Language LIV. 88 Some support for the status of the items listed as verbals is that they are considered predicates in generative-semantic treatments of syntax.


4. colloq. A verbal statement, spec. a damaging admission, alleged to have been made by a suspected criminal and offered in evidence against him at a trial. Freq. pl.

1963 Times 22 Feb. 6/5 Who will believe you after I said I wasn't going to make a verbal? 1974 ‘M. Underwood’ Pinch of Snuff xxi. 171 ‘Have a look through the police evidence.’‥ ‘At least, they haven't put in any verbals.’ 1980 Daily Mirror 24 June 19 Opponents of ‘verbals’ (alleged admissions of arrested persons to police which are not signed but are admitted in evidence) could see the meeting as a chance to further their campaign.


5. slang. Insult or abuse. Esp. in phr. to give (someone) the verbal and varr.

1973 Time Out 2–8 Mar. 13/2 We faced them, and gave them a load of verbal across the street. 1977 Times Educ. Suppl. 21 Oct. 43/2 Insulting and humiliating rivals—‘giving them the verbal’. 1982 Observer 10 Oct. 40/7 Each ‘ball’ consisted of a distinctly lethargic head-high bouncer‥, followed by a rousing collection of verbals (money will be paid to lip-reading viewers for translation).