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In a movie I heard an actor saying "I'm dead serious". I looked up the dictionary and found that "dead" in this context means "really". Is it formal? Can we use it in business meetings?

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Dead, as adverb, is informal when used to mean very, such as in "omelets are dead easy to prepare." (As far as I know, dead is used to mean very only in British English.)
When dead is used to mean absolutely, completely, exactly, straight, or directly it is not used only in informal phrases.

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  • So, what I understand from your answer is that we can use it in our conversations at business meeting table, when we don't mean very? Am I right? Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 19:30
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    You could use it in the context of "That road is dead straight" or "You're dead on [to a point]". Other than those rather idiomatic uses, I don't think it would be appropriate in business
    – user10893
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 19:50
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    We use it all the time in American English. Also your last statement isn't a proper sentence and I can't figure out what it's saying?
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 22:33
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    I think in a 'formal' business meeting I'd say "That last point was absolutely right", rather than "...dead right". The latter still seems somewhat informal to me, across all these shades of meaning. Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 0:19
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    I'm not sure. I think in some formal contexts, especially with "slow", dead can mean very - on road signs and as a formal command from a ship's captain.
    – Matt
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 7:23
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Well, the use of a contraction isn't formal, but putting that aside …

Since the intended meaning of the word in that phrase does match the literal definition of dead as an adverb, it must technically be considered formal. However, such usage is certainly secondary to its common interpretation as a noun, and is liable to confuse your audience across cultural and language barriers. In formal writing, I'd avoid it just in case the people judging your work falsely condemn it.

Neither is the phrase offensive, but the primary meaning of dead still lends it a slightly morbid connotation. I'd use it sparingly and in appropriate context. For example, I'd say I'm dead serious in a business meeting, but not you're dead right. The latter statement clashes with the adverb's connotation, which makes the word stand out rather than just effectively carry your thoughts.

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    Good points. I liked the fuzzy thoughts here. You emphasized human intelligence to determine the context. One upvote. :) Commented Jul 18, 2011 at 6:48
  • Interesting points. +1
    – user10893
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 0:38
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It should be used sparingly in formal settings(if you keep saying "dead" you will creep out people), but it isn't offensive and it isn't inappropriate to use when you really need to.

So it isn't the most formal, as it exaggerates meaning.

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