su·​per·​fi·​cial | \ ˌsü-pər-ˈfi-shəl How to pronounce superficial (audio) \

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 How to pronounce superficially (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for superficial


skin-deep, surface

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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

The appetite for change is superficial: FIFA spent considerable sums last year, for example, on making sure the draw for the World Cup had just as much star power as the equivalent for the men’s competition. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Women’s Soccer’s Big Moment, Big-Footed by Indifference and a ‘Clerical Error’," 7 June 2019 The other issue is that many children — especially older ones — may base their real estate knowledge on HGTV shows, which tend to focus on superficial aspects of real estate, said Aaron Norris of The Norris Group in Riverside, Calif. Danielle Braff,, "How seriously should parents take kids' opinions when searching for a home?," 20 June 2018 Past generations of middle-aged folks also got plenty of parental input, of course, but Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are giving today’s older parents unprecedented access to at least the superficial aspects of their kids’ lives. Beth Teitell,, "Meet the Helicopter Parents: They’re 90, and the kids — they’re 65," 10 May 2018 All you superficial who are just unhappy with your love lives, understand that love is real. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "Everything You Need To Know About Selena Gomez's Love Life," 4 Apr. 2019 The March 13 accidental discharge injured a 17-year-old student, whose wounds appeared superficial, said Seaside police Chief Abdul Pridgen at the time. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, "Teacher who fired gun during safety lesson, hurting student, to step down," 12 Apr. 2018 Bowie was a friend of Reznor’s, and Blackstar appears to inform Bad Witch in more than superficial ways. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Nine Inch Nails Is Still Pushing the Sound of Catharsis," 22 June 2018 But that’s quite a superficial way to describe a vessel whose working legacy spans three centuries. Seattle Sketcher Gabriel Campanario, The Seattle Times, "Meet the Seattle tugboat that made history across three centuries: the Arthur Foss," 20 June 2017 And the needles reach only into the superficial layers of the skin, which is what makes the method semi-permanent (versus permanent, like traditional cosmetic tattoos). Deanna Pai, Glamour, "Microblading, Microshading, and Microfeathering: What's the Difference?," 23 Dec. 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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Statistics for superficial

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for superficial

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

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More Definitions for superficial



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 How to pronounce superficial (audio) \

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 How to pronounce superficial (audio) \

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 How to pronounce superficially (audio) \ 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).


showing courage and determination

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