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Borrowed from Late Latin physicālis, from Latin physica (study of nature), from Ancient Greek φυσική (phusikḗ), feminine singular of φυσικός (phusikós).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈfɪzɪkəl/
  • (file)


physical (comparative more physical, superlative most physical)

  1. Of medicine.
    1. (obsolete) Pertaining to the field of medicine; medical. [15th–19th c.]
    2. (obsolete) That practises medicine; pertaining to doctors, physicianly. [18th c.]
      • 1788, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary, Oxford 2009, p. 19:
        Her father was thrown from his horse, when his blood was in a very inflammatory state, and the bruises were very dangerous; his recovery was not expected by the physical tribe.
    3. (obsolete) Medicinal; good for the health, curative, therapeutic. [16th–19th c.]
  2. Of matter or nature.
    1. Pertaining to the world as understood through the senses rather than the mind; tangible, concrete; having to do with the material world. [from 16th c.]
      It's not so much a physical place as a state of mind.
    2. In accordance with the laws of nature; now specifically, pertaining to physics. [from 16th c.]
      • 2012 January 1, Michael Riordan, “Tackling Infinity”, in American Scientist[2], volume 100, number 1, page 86:
        Some of the most beautiful and thus appealing physical theories, including quantum electrodynamics and quantum gravity, have been dogged for decades by infinities that erupt when theorists try to prod their calculations into new domains.
      The substance has a number of interesting physical properties.
    3. Denoting a map showing natural features of the landscape (compare political). [from 18th c.]
  3. Of the human body.
    1. Having to do with the body as opposed to the mind; corporeal, bodily. [from 18th c.]
      Are you feeling any physical effects?
    2. Sexual, carnal. [from 18th c.]
    3. Involving bodily force or contact; vigorous, aggressive. [from 20th c.]
      This team plays a very physical game, so watch out.


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



physical (plural physicals)

  1. Physical examination.
    How long has it been since your last physical?
    Synonyms: checkup, check-up
  2. (parapsychology) A physical manifestation of psychic origin, as through ectoplasmic solidification.