1. In a high degree; extremely: very happy; very much admired.
2. Truly; absolutely: the very best advice; attended the very same schools.
3. Very Used in titles: the Very Reverend Jane Smith.
adj. ver·i·er, ver·i·est
1. Complete; absolute: at the very end of his career.
2. Being the same; identical: That is the very question she asked yesterday.
3. Being particularly suitable or appropriate: the very item needed to increase sales.
4. Used to emphasize the importance of what is specified: The very mountains shook.
5. Being nothing more than what is specified; mere: The very act of riding in the car made him dizzy.
6. Archaic Genuine; true: "Like very sanctity, she did approach" (Shakespeare).
[Middle English verrai, from Old French verai, true, from Vulgar Latin *vērācus, from Latin vērāx, vērāc-, truthful, from vērus, true; see wērə-o- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: In general usage very is not used alone to modify a past participle. Thus, we may say of a book that it has been very much praised or very much criticized (where very modifies the adverb much), but not that it has been very praised or very criticized. However, many past participle forms do double duty as adjectives, in which case modification by very or by analogous adverbs such as quite is acceptable, as in a very celebrated singer or a performance that was quite polished. In some cases there is disagreement as to whether a particular participle can be used properly as an adjective. In the past, critics have objected to the use of very by itself with delighted, interested, annoyed, pleased, disappointed, and irritated. All of these words are now well established as adjectives, however, as indicated by the fact that they are used attributively, that is, in juxtaposition to a noun they modify, as in a delighted audience, a pleased look, a disappointed young man. But the situation is not always clear. Some speakers accept phrases such as very appreciated, very astonished, or very heartened, while others prefer alternatives using very much. Some participles can be treated as adjectives in one sense but not another, as in a very inflated reputation but not a very inflated tire. As a result, there is no sure way to tell which participles can be modified by a bare very. When in doubt, using very much is generally correct.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.