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adjective su·per·fi·cial \ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl\

Simple Definition of superficial

  • : concerned only with what is obvious or apparent : not thorough or complete

  • : affecting only the outer part or surface of something : not deep or serious

  • : lying close to the surface

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of superficial

  1. 1a (1) :  of, relating to, or located near a surface (2) :  lying on, not penetrating below, or affecting only the surface <superficial wounds>b British of a unit of measure :  square <superficial foot>

  2. 2a :  concerned only with the obvious or apparent :  shallowb :  seen on the surface :  externalc :  presenting only an appearance without substance or significance


play \-ˈfi-sh(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of superficial in a sentence

  1. Wonderbra model Eva Herzigova sued a Canadian underwear company that refused to pay her $30,000 fee because she showed up for the photo shoot with a short haircut that company didn't like. You know, it's shameful in this day and age how superficial and sexist some of these ad execs are. —Lewis Grossberger, Mediaweek, 14 Apr. 2003

  2. Angelina Jolie goes blond and bubbly and hell hasn't even started freezing over. The brooding brunette donned a Monroe-esque platinum coif for her most recent film, “Life or Something Like It.” She plays a superficial reporter who learns what's most important in life—which is, apparently, getting it on with Edward Burns. —Katerine Stroup et al., Newsweek, 23 July 2001

  3. All this discussion of money may seem a vulgar recital of greed. But that is really just a superficial, simplistic criticism and usually a dishonest one. —Garth Clark, Ceramics Monthly, October 2001

  4. a superficial analysis of the results

  5. They had a superficial knowledge of the topic.

  6. These superficial changes don't address the underlying problem.

  7. The storm only caused superficial damage to the building.

Origin and Etymology of superficial

Middle English, from Late Latin superficialis, from Latin superficies (see superficies)

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of superficial

superficial, shallow, cursory mean lacking in depth or solidity. superficial implies a concern only with surface aspects or obvious features <a superficial analysis of the problem>. shallow is more generally derogatory in implying lack of depth in knowledge, reasoning, emotions, or character <a light, shallow, and frivolous review>. cursory suggests a lack of thoroughness or a neglect of details <gave the letter only a cursory reading>.

SUPERFICIAL Defined for Kids


adjective su·per·fi·cial \ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl\

Definition of superficial for Students

  1. 1 :  of or relating to the surface or appearance only <a superficial cut>

  2. 2 :  not thorough or complete <He has only superficial knowledge of the subject.>



Medical Dictionary


adjective su·per·fi·cial \ˌsü-pər-ˈfish-əl\

Medical Definition of superficial

  1. 1:  of, relating to, or located near the surface <superficial blood vessels>

  2. 2:  lying on, not penetrating below, or affecting only the surface <superficial wounds>


\-ē\play adverb

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up superficial? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to permeate or influence as if by dyeing

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