superficial

adjective

su·​per·​fi·​cial ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl How to pronounce superficial (audio)
1
a(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
a
: concerned only with the obvious or apparent : shallow
b
: seen on the surface : external
c
: presenting only an appearance without substance or significance
superficially adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of superficial in a Sentence

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
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
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
a superficial analysis of the results They had a superficial knowledge of the topic. These superficial changes don't address the underlying problem. The storm only caused superficial damage to the building. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Without tackling this foundational issue, the efforts to regulate AI will remain superficial, unable to address the deeper challenges that AI poses to society. Or Lenchner, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 By striving to make a complex case easily palatable, the resulting doc is stunning to look at, with several undeniably heartfelt passages, but ultimately superficial. Carlos Aguilar, Variety, 9 Feb. 2024 The Zipper Carry-on Max proved very durable in our tests, showing only minor superficial scuffs and no dents at all after whacking it with a metal baseball bat and shoving it multiple times off a table while fully packed. Theresa Holland, Travel + Leisure, 26 Jan. 2024 The former president’s supporters maintain that the bad odor about their movement’s avatar is a fabrication — a superficial and silly rationalization wielded by his enemies to tarnish his record in office. Noah Rothman, National Review, 15 Jan. 2024 Finding a way to diminish the effect of the distracting crease (which seems like a big ask) even through superficial means like a brighter screen, could help. Scharon Harding, Ars Technica, 22 Dec. 2023 But for the series’ actual audience, his analysis will come across as both obvious and superficial — a bit like Archie itself. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Dec. 2023 The wound turned out to be superficial, and the owners did produce a rabies vaccination certificate for the beast. Sacramento Bee, 31 Jan. 2024 What if a spectacle of authentic human suffering is obscured by disfiguring layers of flesh — or, in a bitterly ironic twist, concealed by a physical beauty that people assume to be superficial and depthless? Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 27 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Late Latin superficialis, from Latin superficies — see superficies

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Time Traveler
The first known use of superficial was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near superficial

Cite this Entry

“Superficial.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superficial. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

superficial

adjective
su·​per·​fi·​cial ˌsü-pər-ˈfish-əl How to pronounce superficial (audio)
1
a
: of or relating to a surface
b
: lying on, not going below, or affecting only the surface
superficial wounds
2
: not thorough : shallow
a superficial inspection
superficiality
-ˌfish-ē-ˈal-ət-ē
noun
superficially adverb

Medical Definition

superficial

adjective
su·​per·​fi·​cial ˌsü-pər-ˈfish-əl How to pronounce superficial (audio)
1
: of, relating to, or located near the surface
superficial blood vessels
2
: lying on, not penetrating below, or affecting only the surface
superficial wounds
superficially adverb

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