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


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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 Iranian officials said the explosion was a minor, superficial incident, but reports indicate that that explosion was caused by a bomb planted by unknown saboteurs. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "The Worst Hacks and Breaches of 2020 So Far," 3 July 2020 For all the twists and complexities of Weber’s sociology, this conception of History is superficial, and its prescription for Politics thin. George Blaustein, The New Republic, "Searching for Consolation in Max Weber’s Work Ethic," 2 July 2020 There are no judgmental eyes, no identifying markings that associate people with a particular fashion tribe, no superficial biases. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, "Inside the virtual fashion party scene, where supermodels may materialize and your clothes don’t matter," 30 June 2020 It was determined during the investigation that both parties grabbed each other during the altercation causing superficial injuries. Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire Police Department weekly report," 29 June 2020 On its most superficial level, Viola’s impersonation of Sebastian provides a hilariously exaggerated perspective of how a woman thinks a man is supposed to behave to be accepted by his peers. Anne Cohen,, "The Disturbing Message At The Heart Of She’s The Man Sadly Still Applies Today," 24 June 2020 Activists have long been sounding the alarm about social inequities that go back decades and require deep structural changes, not superficial reforms. Astra Taylor, The New Yorker, "A New Group of Leftist Primary Challengers Campaign Through Protests and the Coronavirus," 17 June 2020 That felt like a really fun vibe to put the friends into as really superficial go-getters. Chancellor Agard,, "Search Party creators reveal season 3's biggest pop culture influences," 23 June 2020 According to the station, troopers pronounced Gallagher dead at the scene and took Harris to a hospital for treatment of a superficial scratch to the front of her neck, a laceration on her wrist and a bruise on her thigh. Fox News, "Pennsylvania woman accused of cutting another woman's windpipe after 'windpipe location' internet search," 13 June 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for superficial

Last Updated

8 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Superficial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for superficial


How to pronounce superficial (audio)

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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