sub·​sur·​face | \ˈsəb-ˌsər-fəs \

Definition of subsurface 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: earth material (such as rock) near but not exposed at the surface of the ground


sub·​sur·​face | \ˌsəb-ˈsər-fəs \

Definition of subsurface (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being something located beneath a surface and especially underground

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Synonyms & Antonyms for subsurface

Synonyms: Adjective

belowground, subterranean, underground

Antonyms: Adjective

aboveground, surface

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Examples of subsurface in a Sentence


a sandy wasteland that gave little hint of its subsurface wealth

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Scientists think there's a fair amount of interaction between Europa's surface and subsurface. Mike Wall,, "Jupiter Moon Europa's Jagged Ice Towers Could Imperil Robot Landers," 8 Oct. 2018 Perhaps the Red Planet even has entire subsurface lake systems like those beneath Antarctica. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Underground Lake of Liquid Water Detected on Mars," 25 July 2018 Methane gas can seep into subsurface voids and explode when heated, emerging from cracks in the ground several feet away from the lava. Washington Post, "Hawaii volcano produces methane and ‘eerie’ blue flames," 24 May 2018 In 1971 and 1972, during the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, astronauts installed temperature-measuring probes near the moon’s surface and further down into its subsurface. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Astronauts’ Footprints May Have Warmed the Moon," 14 June 2018 The Kennecott Minerals Company cleaned up toxics and donated the subsurface. Tom Kizzia, Anchorage Daily News, "Amid the ruins of the Kennecott mine, a quiet new look at a unique slice of history," 26 June 2018 And, of course, there is always the chance that Martian methanogens still slumber in the planet’s subsurface even today, periodically awakening during clement periods to produce their gaseous calling-card. Adam Mann, Scientific American, "Curiosity Rover Uncovers Long-Sought Organic Materials on Martian Surface," 7 June 2018 Endpoint Solutions, Franklin, hired Brian Roper as a senior compliance specialist and added Tim Hanson to the due diligence/subsurface staff. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New hires, promotions at Wisconsin companies," 28 June 2018 Enceladus has a subsurface ocean and shoots jets of water vapor that becomes ionized (stripped of some atoms) and wind up circling Saturn. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Saturn and Its Moon Enceladus Talk To Each Other. The Sound Is Perfectly Cosmic and Eerie.," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Far from being an inert snowball, Pluto proved to be an active world of mountains, glaciers and perhaps even a subsurface liquid-water ocean. Andrea Gawrylewski, Scientific American, "Debunking Animal Myths, the Truth about Time and Other New Science Books," 1 May 2018 The peaks might come from subsurface chemical reactions between rocks and water, carbon-rich meteorites that enter the atmosphere, or from sudden releases from reservoirs beneath Mars’ surface. Nisha Gaind, Scientific American, "Mars Probe Poised to Solve Red Planet’s Methane Mystery," 26 Apr. 2018 Titan is thought to possess a subsurface liquid ocean that could be a breeding ground for biological life. Neel V. Patel, Slate Magazine, "NASA Is Pivoting to Astrobiology," 21 Dec. 2017 With this equipment, the researchers can generate a subsurface electrical field to indicate features such as stone or brick walls and old pits. Karen Farkas,, "President James A. Garfield's former home to be studied by archeologists," 11 Oct. 2017 Property rights harness the discovery process—encouraging efficiency. Perhaps most relevant, however, is the ease with which subsurface mineral rights could be reconfigured. WSJ, "Oil and Spectrum Rights Models Offer a Clue," 9 Oct. 2017 Environmentalist groups have argued subsurface wells beneath the ocean floor would be preferable to protect microscopic marine life. Lauren Williams, Orange County Register, "Barbara Boxer to lobby for desalination plant in Huntington Beach," 19 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subsurface.' 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 subsurface


1775, in the meaning defined above


1875, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for subsurface

The first known use of subsurface was in 1775

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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