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

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 Although there are superficial similarities, the prototype controller is a very different beast to what was eventually released alongside the Wii. Jon Porter, The Verge, "Early WiiMote prototype emerges with wires that let it plug into a GameCube," 29 Oct. 2018 But in a superficial search of Gacy’s home, the receipt would be found by lead detective, Joseph Kozenczak. Courtney Lund O’neil, Harper's BAZAAR, "A Serial Killer, a Receipt, and My Mom: Haunted by the Murder of 33 Boys," 31 Oct. 2018 Modeling in this moment seems superficial, just shallow. Isobella Jade, SELF, "Carrying My Father's Memory, and His Coffee Cup," 18 Oct. 2018 So, yes, Raya is less superficial than its reputation would suggest. Kevin Roose, New York Times, "Can ‘Illuminati Tinder’ Save Us All?," 27 June 2018 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

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

26 Jan 2019

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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 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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