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The meaning and origin of the expression: Word for word

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Word for word


A precise following of another's words, that is, verbatim, either in spoken repetition of those words or in a close study of a text.


The 'close study' meaning of the expression does back to at least 1385 when Chaucer used it in The Legend of Dido, a poem from Legend of Good Women:

I could folwe [follow] word for word Virgile.