sur·​re·​al sə-ˈrē(-ə)l How to pronounce surreal (audio)
 also  -ˈrā-əl
: marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream
also : unbelievable, fantastic
surreal sums of money
surreality noun
surreally adverb

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In 1924 a group of European poets, painters, and filmmakers founded a movement that they called Surrealism. Their central idea was that the unconscious mind (a concept Sigmund Freud had recently made famous) was the source of all imagination, and that art should try to express its contents. The unconscious, they believed, revealed itself most clearly in dreams. The Surrealist painters included René Magritte, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí, whose "limp watches" painting became the best-known Surrealist image of all. Since those years, we've used surreal to describe all kinds of situations that strike us as dreamlike. And even though the Surrealist movement ended long ago, surrealism now seems to be everywhere—not just in painting, literature, and movies but also in blogs, video games, and graphic novels.

Examples of surreal in a Sentence

Despite all the hassle, though, I would not want an ordinary name. I know of one other person in the world who shares my name, first and last. I know nothing about her except that she lived in New York at the same time I did, and that she and I subscribed to a few of the same publications. I found myself in the surreal position of having to explain to circulation departments that I was, in fact, me, and not that other version of me on the West Side. Johnna Kaplan, Newsweek, 3 Mar. 2008
Films aren't just a part of life for people in India; they are a way of life. The over-the-top, surreal dance numbers in nearly every Bollywood film often make no sense in relation to the story, but no one seems to be complaining. Shashank Samant, The Out Traveler, May/June 2005
The movie achieves a truly rare mix of the absurd, the surreal, and the heartfelt. Improbably, its wacked-out premise and structural hilarity concoct a melancholy meditation on love, loss, and memory, while delivering a message—subversive to our culture's therapeutic optimism—about the tragedy of healing. Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal, 23 Apr. 2004
The whole thing was completely surreal.
Recent Examples on the Web Earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Riverside was surreal for Angelina Chavez, the culmination of overcoming her imposter syndrome and embracing the efforts of her mothers, who walked the stage with her during the Latinx ceremony. Eleanor Pringle, Fortune, 31 May 2024 Discovery: 'Lead by Example' (Exclusive) Michael and Moll eventually discovered the Progenitors’ inner sanctum: a surreal pasture of yellow flowers with a mysterious interface atop a pedestal. Jp Mangalindan, Peoplemag, 30 May 2024 Using your body to brace doors and windows Those who have been through major hurricanes may tell you of the surreal visual of watching their doors and windows bending to the pressure from the winds. Howard Cohen, Miami Herald, 29 May 2024 Attending a show with her would be surreal at any age. Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal, Parents, 14 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for surreal 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'surreal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


back-formation from surrealism

First Known Use

1937, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of surreal was in 1937

Dictionary Entries Near surreal

Cite this Entry

“Surreal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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