su·​per·​flu·​ous | \su̇-ˈpər-flü-əs \

Definition of superfluous 

1a : exceeding what is sufficient or necessary : extra

b : not needed : unnecessary

2 obsolete : marked by wastefulness : extravagant

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Other Words from superfluous

superfluously adverb
superfluousness noun

Did You Know?

If you think that superfluous must mean "extra 'fluous,'" along the pattern of such words as superabsorbent and superabundant, you're not far off. Superfluous comes from the Latin adjective superfluus, meaning literally "running over" or "overflowing." Superfluus, in turn, derives from the combination of the prefix super- (meaning "over" or "more") and fluere, "to flow." (Fluere also gave us fluid, fluent, and influence, among others.) Since its first appearance in English in the 15th century, superfluous has referred to an "overflowing" of some supply, as of time or words, which hearkens back to its Latin origins.

Examples of superfluous in a Sentence

In the Imagist model, the writer is a sculptor. Technique consists of chipping away everything superfluous in order to reveal the essential form within. "It took you ninety-seven words to do it," Pound is reported to have remarked to a young literary aspirant who had handed him a new poem. "I find it could have been managed in fifty-six." — Louis Menand, New Yorker, 9 & 16 June 2008 Oddly, despite the preponderance of superfluous words, the book has no glossary, which is a must for an introductory audience. — Dorothy Merritts, Eos, 3 Oct. 2000 Twenty years ago, baby boomers were written about as if every one of them had as a life goal making enough money to accumulate the same superfluous material objects that everyone else had. — Calvin Trillin, Time, 6 Sept. 1999 cleared off all the superfluous stuff on his desk to make room for the new computer
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Recent Examples on the Web

These technologies will also make many trips superfluous. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Self-Driving Car Returns to Earth," 30 Nov. 2018 Anything that muffles sound without other benefit is superfluous in racing unless required by the rule book. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Open mind, wide open throttle: We go to our first NASCAR race," 15 Nov. 2018 Kreidler adds some superfluous plot points (Joanna's now got a brother who died 15 years ago, Christina's expecting a rich art patron who never arrives) and a couple of overworked metaphors (a blooming cactus, a telling children's song). Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader, "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner," 27 Mar. 2018 The argument was that growing investment flows into developing countries rendered World Bank lending mostly superfluous. Landon Thomas Jr., New York Times, "The World Bank Is Remaking Itself as a Creature of Wall Street," 25 Jan. 2018 Chief Executive Officer Jeff Gennette, who took the helm at Macy’s last year, has vowed to bring shoppers back by opening more off-price locations, closing underperforming stores and reducing superfluous inventory. Lindsey Rupp,, "Macy's First Sales Gain in Three Years Brings Ray of Hope," 27 Feb. 2018 The House creation of a new criminal statute for offenses against police is superfluous, given the many existing federal and state laws that protect law enforcement officers specifically. Karen Dolan, Fortune, "These 'Blue Lives Matter' Bills Send the Wrong Message on Race and Violence," 31 May 2018 Yet all samples have outliers, and in baseball’s talent pool, there occasionally comes a player whose talent is so evident that caution becomes superfluous. David Murphy,, "Why Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins is a superstar: Look at the company he keeps | David Murphy," 10 Apr. 2018 And in the interest of not killing your battery for a very superfluous feature, Samsung doesn’t endlessly loop GIFs. Chris Welch, The Verge, "Samsung’s Always-On Display can now show GIFs," 30 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'superfluous.' 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 superfluous

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for superfluous

Middle English, from Latin superfluus, literally, running over, from superfluere to overflow, from super- + fluere to flow — more at fluid

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Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for superfluous

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

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More Definitions for superfluous



English Language Learners Definition of superfluous

: beyond what is needed : not necessary


su·​per·​flu·​ous | \su̇-ˈpər-flə-wəs \

Kids Definition of superfluous

: going beyond what is enough or necessary : extra Her story was filled with superfluous details.

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