su·​per·​fi·​cial | \ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl \

Definition of superficial 

1a(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

2a : concerned only with the obvious or apparent : shallow

b : seen on the surface : external

c : presenting only an appearance without substance or significance

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Other Words from superficial

superficially \ ˌsü-​pər-​ˈfi-​sh(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for superficial


facile, one-dimensional, shallow, skin-deep


deep, profound

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

This strategy disagreement may seem superficial, but at the end of the day, politics is a numbers game. Amelia Harnish,, "May The Best Stacey Win: Why The Georgia Primary Is So Important," 22 May 2018 After several elimination rounds, the leading man or lady is supposed to propose based on superficial, personal facts and physical appearance. Becca Smouse, azcentral, "ABC's 'Bachelor' dating spinoff 'The Proposal' is ... kind of icky," 2 July 2018 Beautifully photographed, well composed, but disappointingly superficial. Peter Keough,, "An unhappy family gets little love in ‘Happy End’," 14 Mar. 2018 She’s been called a role model -- but also creepy and superficial., "Barbie’s Torrid Rise, Awkward Fall and Surprise Comeback," 26 June 2017 Surveillance video at the building helped authorities to confirm Ramos' connection with the shooting, which also left two others with superficial injuries, according to charging documents. NBC News, "Capital Gazette shooting: Gunman barricaded back door in 'coordinated attack,' prosecutor says," 29 June 2018 As Adam Serwer wrote for The Atlantic on Monday, Donald Trump won the presidency by combining a superficial economic populism with appeals to resentment against religious and ethnic minorities. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Tuesday’s primaries were a good night for the populist left.," 27 June 2018 The same can’t be said for Alzheimer’s other than on the most superficial level. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Alzheimer's Drug Failures, Sage Therapeutics Stock, Azar on Drug Prices," 12 June 2018 Five people were confirmed dead and two suffered superficial injuries, Acting Anne Arundel County Police Chief William Krampf told reporters at an 8 p.m. news conference., "Assistant Editor Rob Hiaasen Killed In Newsroom Shooting," 28 June 2018

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

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

History and Etymology for superficial

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

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Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

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

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English Language Learners Definition of superficial

: concerned only with what is obvious or apparent : not thorough or complete

: affecting only the outer part or surface of something : not deep or serious

: lying close to the surface


su·​per·​fi·​cial | \ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl \

Kids Definition of superficial

1 : of or relating to the surface or appearance only a superficial cut

2 : not thorough or complete He has only superficial knowledge of the subject.

Other Words from superficial

superficially adverb


su·​per·​fi·​cial | \ˌsü-pər-ˈfish-əl \

Medical Definition of superficial 

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

Other Words from superficial

superficially \ -​ē \ adverb

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Comments on superficial

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


something that serves to warn or remind

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