Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun sur·face \ˈsər-fəs\

Simple Definition of surface

  • : an outside part or layer of something

  • : the upper layer of an area of land or water

  • : the flat, top part of something (such as a table or desk) that you can work on

Full Definition of surface

  1. 1 :  the exterior or upper boundary of an object or body <on the surface of the water> <the earth's surface>

  2. 2 :  a plane or curved two-dimensional locus of points (as the boundary of a three-dimensional region) <plane surface> <surface of a sphere>

  3. 3a :  the external or superficial aspect of something <trouble lurks below the surface>b :  an external part or layer <sanded the rough surfaces>

on the surface
  1. :  to all outward appearances

Examples of surface

  1. The painting's surface is covered with fine cracks.

  2. The bowl has a shiny surface.

  3. The surface of wood was rough.

  4. Be careful of icy surfaces on the roads.

Origin of surface

French, from Middle French, from sur- + face face, from Old French — more at face

First Known Use: circa 1600



adjective sur·face

Simple Definition of surface

  • : involving only the parts that are easy to see or notice

  • : involving the removal of the surface of a large area of land to get at coal or other material that is near to the surface

Full Definition of surface

  1. 1a :  of, located on, or designed for use at the surface of somethingb :  situated, transported, or employed on the surface of the earth <surface mail> <surface vehicles>

  2. 2 :  appearing to be such on the surface only :  superficial <surface friendships>

Examples of surface

  1. Despite the surface differences between the two candidates, they are very similar in most ways.

  2. <a surface stain on the wood that can easily be removed with a mild detergent>


First Known Use of surface




verb sur·face

Simple Definition of surface

  • : to rise to the surface of water

  • : to appear or become obvious after being hidden or not seen

  • : to put a surface on (something, such as a road)

Full Definition of surface


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to give a surface to: asa :  to plane or make smoothb :  to apply the surface layer to <surface a highway>

  3. 2 :  to bring to the surface <surface a sunken ship>

  4. intransitive verb
  5. 1 :  to work on or at the surface

  6. 2 :  to come to the surface

  7. 3 :  to come into public view :  show up <letters that have recently surfaced>

sur·fac·er noun

Examples of surface

  1. The whale surfaced and then dove back down.

  2. The information surfaced many years later.

  3. After several years, the actress surfaced in a comedy.

  4. The road needs to be surfaced again.


First Known Use of surface


Medical Dictionary


noun sur·face \ˈsər-fəs\

Medical Definition of surface

  1. :  the exterior or upper boundary of an object or body <the mesial and distal surfaces of a tooth>

Seen and Heard

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


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

spindrift pince-nez duvet kittly-benders
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.