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 superficial (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms for superficial


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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 So, while some might be tempted to write off questions about post-COVID fashion as silly or superficial, not everyone can afford to be so cavalier. Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune, 11 June 2021 The massage felt a bit superficial—more vibration than percussion. Christine Yu, Outside Online, 2 June 2021 News is rarely made at such events and both the questions and answers tend to be repetitive and superficial. Chris Jones,, 2 June 2021 As Rachel tugged away, the experience registered not as superficial, but crucial. Maggie Bullock, Vogue, 1 June 2021 Life and work can be memorable and remarkable over forgettable or superficial. Jodie Cook, Forbes, 1 June 2021 The autopsy showed three other bullet fragments in the head and several superficial shrapnel wounds. Valerie Bauerlein, WSJ, 18 May 2021 During the ensuing struggle the victim was struck with a machete, causing superficial wounds to his upper body, police said. Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 Apr. 2021 The victim was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in stable condition where he was treated for two superficial wounds to his upper back. Wayne K. Roustan,, 20 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for superficial

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

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Statistics for superficial

Last Updated

15 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Superficial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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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 superficial (audio) \ adverb


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