sur·​re·​al | \ sə-ˈrē(-ə)l How to pronounce surreal (audio) also -ˈrā-əl \

Definition of surreal

1 : marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream also : unbelievable, fantastic surreal sums of money

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Other Words from surreal

surreality \ (ˌ)sə-​rē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce surreal (audio) \ noun
surreally adverb

Did You Know?

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web But Frisch’s greater journey — published in its entirety for the first time here — is astonishing and surreal in different ways. Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, "Snow day in the Bay Area 1976: The view from above," 7 Jan. 2021 Sweet and surreal, the scene befit a year in which sports, reflecting society in the midst of a global pandemic, forged ahead with an emphasis on distance. Matt Kawahara,, "‘One freaking weird year’ revealed what sports is like without human closeness," 2 Jan. 2021 The family was a matriarchy, committed to dissolving the boundaries between the daily work of art and the daily work of care—a feminist project more enduring and surreal than any single romance or school of painting. Merve Emre, The New Yorker, "How Leonora Carrington Feminized Surrealism," 21 Dec. 2020 Set in a virtual cave, this Tamagotchi-like waiting simulator is a riff on a German folktale that captures 2020’s sad and surreal lockdown energy. Lewis Gordon, Wired, "The Longing Is a Video Game of Transcendent Slowness," 15 Dec. 2020 The result is a surreal and bold exploration of trauma and recovery that doesn’t yield closure in the traditional sense but empowers our heroine to move forward. Washington Post, "Best TV episodes of 2020: ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ ‘BoJack Horseman,’ ‘This Is Us’ and more," 8 Dec. 2020 Star Tim Allen will reprise his former TV role as the Taylor family patriarch and Tool Time host for a surreal Last Man Standing episode which has Allen playing both sitcom dads at the same time. James Hibberd,, "Tim Allen revives Home Improvement character for a Last Man Standing crossover episode," 4 Dec. 2020 Euphoria’s first season ends on a surreal, devastating cliffhanger: a heartbroken Rue Bennett (Zendaya) relapses after months of sobriety, and immediately afterwards, a dreamlike scene shows her falling into a crowd of faceless dancers. Lydia Wang,, "Euphoria’s Season 2 Cast Will Change Things Up A Bit," 3 Dec. 2020 My response to receiving the galleys during this grim and surreal season was a mixture of fatigue — not her again! New York Times, "Shifting the Focus From Sylvia Plath’s Tragic Death to Her Brilliant Life," 27 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'surreal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of surreal

1937, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for surreal

back-formation from surrealism

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Time Traveler for surreal

Time Traveler

The first known use of surreal was in 1937

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Statistics for surreal

Last Updated

21 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Surreal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for surreal


How to pronounce surreal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of surreal

: very strange or unusual : having the quality of a dream

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