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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Paramedics took him to a hospital for treatment of what ended up being superficial wounds that were not considered life-threatening. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 May 2022 But the resemblances are fairly superficial once Paper Girls gets going. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 29 July 2022 Nor was its appeal superficial, like some of the other items pictured on the side of the ice cream truck. Steve Kolowich, Washington Post, 26 July 2022 The Valsalva maneuver might increase eye pressure in a way that can rupture superficial retinal blood vessels, the researchers suggest. Julie Stewart, Men's Health, 26 July 2022 Some of the immediate distractions were relatively superficial, but in a country where every public service feels broken, every confirmation of a deficiency in our lawmakers draws fire. Holly Thomas, CNN, 16 July 2022 Unfortunately, the film only takes a cursory, superficial glance at this societal malady, as if a deeper dive would harshen the mellow of its romantic comedy. Odie Henderson,, 12 July 2022 Pious and relentlessly superficial, this is a book motivated by feelings more than facts, grounded in single anecdotes and positioned against a blurry sense of the discourse rather than specific claims or critics or events. Ian Beacock, The New Republic, 13 July 2022 Season 4 was a 13-hour-plus behemoth that added Wes Craven to its mood board but otherwise ended with undeveloped characters and obvious but superficial allusions to contemporary crises (QAnon, the radicalization of angry young men). Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 6 July 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near superficial



superficial blastula

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Last Updated

14 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Superficial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for superficial


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

More from Merriam-Webster on superficial

Nglish: Translation of superficial for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of superficial for Arabic Speakers


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