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    #1

    Virtually vs. Practically

    I saw that this topic has been addressed previously, but the thread was closed.

    I wanted to offer my personal take on how to use these terms correctly.

    Practically can be associated with the idea of "in practice". For example, you could say "In a small town, practically everyone is on a first-name basis with the mayor."

    Whereas virtually can be associated with "the virtues of". For example, "These two pencils are virtually indistinguishable." Meaning both pencils possess the same virtues. In this sentence, practically could be substituted without a problem (as both pencils are the same "in practice" as well), but virtually seems to be more appropriate as it refers to the inherent qualities of the pencils, not the practice of using them.

    Just my take on it! Any other views?

  1. probus's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    I think virtually has come to have a much greater and more subtle meaning than "associated with the virtues of." It means almost identical to, not actually but in the sense of an electronic simile.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    "Virtually" has nothing to do with "virtues".

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    #4

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    "Virtually" has nothing to do with "virtues".
    Actually, it does.

    Look here: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/virtually

    Originally used in the 15th century, virtually means "...as far as essential qualities or facts are concerned"

    A virtue can be equated to a quality.

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    #5

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    I think virtually has come to have a much greater and more subtle meaning than "associated with the virtues of." It means almost identical to, not actually but in the sense of an electronic simile.
    Yes, modern use of "virtually" now includes (and is used almost exclusively in the context of) the digital/electronic definition

    But for the real origin of the word, see my reply to MikeNewYork in this thread.

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    This is not the 15th century.

    See the definitions here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/virtually

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    #7

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    This is not the 15th century.

    See the definitions here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/virtually
    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the origin of virtually definitely stems from the idea of virtues, or qualities.

    The point of this thread was to examine the semantic differences between virtually and practically, not arbitrarily declare that the actual root of a word doesn't matter.

    By the way, you may want to use more definitive sources than the Free Dictionary.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically

    You have not burst any bubbles. The American Heritage Dictionary is definitive enough for me. It was written in this century.

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    #9

    Re: Virtually vs. Practically


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