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In the first definition of the word virtually there is written:

almost [= practically]:

  • Virtually all the children come to school by bus.
  • He was virtually unknown before running for office.

which makes me wonder whether virtually means almost or practically, because the meaning of almost is not the same as practically, is it?

Could you explain what they mean by this?

If you will take a sentence "You'll be able to understand virtually every aspect of computing", it seems that the word virtually has no effect if it means practically because understanding is theory, not praxis, and I feel that they don't mean "understand almost every aspect" either.

Does "understand virtually" mean "be able to apply the knowledge in praxis"?

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It's not "understand virtually", it's "virtually every aspect". Which is synonymous to "almost every aspect" or "practically every aspect". Practically doesn't have anything to do with praxis vs. theory here, and neither does virtually mean "unreal" or "otherwordly". Perhaps you should start by looking up practically and realizing it has more than one meaning. –  RegDwigнt Feb 25 '12 at 16:12
    
@RegDwightѬſ道 You opened my mind. I admit that I changed the question a little with time to have it answered with this meaning in context because I didn't want to open another little question. If you will append this to accepted answer its complete answer for me. –  xralf Feb 25 '12 at 16:20
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closed as not a real question by RegDwigнt Feb 25 '12 at 16:12

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Merriam-Webster lists both 'almost' and 'practically' as synonyms for 'virtually'. The notation Longman uses:

almost [= practically]:

is (what Longman calls) a double-click-able cross-reference.

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From OED:

virtual 4. (adjective) That is so in essence or effect, although not formally or actually; admitting of being called by the name so far as the effect or result is concerned.

So in essence, virtually means to all intents and purposes, but strictly speaking not actually.

Other common alternatives with the same meaning are effectively, in practice, almost, etc.

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I guess there are many cases where it wouldn't matter if you'd use the word "virtually" or "practically". However in sentences like -> "My life is virtually a closed cabin" etc, "virtually" would be a better fit.

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