Definition of oral in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈôrəl/


1By word of mouth; spoken rather than written: they had reached an oral agreement
More example sentences
  • They rely on oral interviews rather than written ones.
  • It focuses on oral communication rather than written communication, which is vital in communities where there are many people who are not literate.
  • As Ruby and Brown point out in, military records often differed from Spokane versions, which generally assumed an oral, rather than written, form.
spoken, verbal, unwritten, vocal, uttered, said, by mouth, viva voce
1.1Relating to the transmission of information or literature by word of mouth rather than in writing: oral literature a society with an oral tradition
More example sentences
  • Folk literature from the oral tradition to the printed word encompasses four major types: legends, myths, fables, and fairy tales.
  • Like the slaves, immersed from birth in an oral tradition, she sings the recipe to retain the words.
  • We often therefore speak of oral traditions, but the most important element in an oral tradition is not so much the spoken word as it is human memory.
1.2(Of a society) not having reached the stage of literacy.
Example sentences
  • Indeed, the effect of the Internet on a largely oral society like Sierra Leone will be profound.
  • It is unfortunate that Inuit are an oral society, because this great knowledge is not being recognized or understood.
  • We face problems when our ingrained literacy is brought to oral cultures.
2Relating to the mouth: oral hygiene
More example sentences
  • Maintenance of good oral hygiene and dental care are important.
  • The chronic exposure to silver compounds both in medical and industrial settings can lead to permanent bluish-black discoloration of oral and nasopharyngeal mucosa.
  • Sites involved include the oral cavity, anus, and genital mucosa.
2.1Done or taken by the mouth: oral contraceptives
More example sentences
  • Any woman who had ever been pregnant, had a positive pregnancy test, or used estrogen replacement therapy or oral contraceptives was excluded from the study.
  • Should oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy be discontinued before surgery?
  • There has been little input from the clinicians who prescribe oral contraceptives or from the women who use them.
2.2 Phonetics (Of a speech sound) pronounced by the voice resonating in the mouth, as the vowels in English. Compare with nasal (sense 2 of the adjective).
Example sentences
  • 12 vowels are distinguished; six oral vowels and six nasal vowels.
2.3 Psychoanalysis (In Freudian theory) relating to or denoting a stage of infantile psychosexual development in which the mouth is the main source of pleasure and the center of experience.
Example sentences
  • But the research evidence linking actual deprivation with the later development of oral behaviour or character is weak.
  • This behavior ties directly into the oral fixation theories.


(often orals)
A spoken examination or test: he was preparing for his orals a French oral
More example sentences
  • Exam students should do their orals and practical exams for a week at Easter or just before the written exams in June instead.
  • She tests us on her weekly columns, gives sudden projects and papers and orals due the next day, and asks impossible things.
  • I had my orals yesterday and just finished my History exam a while ago.
oral examination;
British  viva, viva voce


See verbal (usage). See also aural (usage).


Early 17th century: from late Latin oralis, from Latin os, or- 'mouth'.

Words that rhyme with oral

aboral, aural, choral, floral, goral

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: o·ral

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