superlative

1 of 2

adjective

su·​per·​la·​tive su̇-ˈpər-lə-tiv How to pronounce superlative (audio)
1
: of, relating to, or constituting the degree of grammatical comparison that denotes an extreme or unsurpassed level or extent
2
a
: surpassing all others : supreme
b
: of very high quality : excellent
superlative work
3
superlatively adverb
superlativeness noun

superlative

2 of 2

noun

1
a
: the superlative degree of comparison in a language
b
: a superlative form of an adjective or adverb
2
: the superlative or utmost degree of something : acme
3
: a superlative person or thing
4
: an admiring sometimes exaggerated expression especially of praise

Did you know?

Superlative may sound high-flown when compared with a synonym like outstanding, but if your next paper comes back from your teacher with the comment "Superlative work!" at the top you probably won't complain. Since superlative means "best, greatest", it makes sense that superlative is also a term used in grammar for the highest degree of comparison. So for the adjective simple, for example, the comparative form is simpler and the superlative form is simplest; and for the adverb boldly, the comparative form is more boldly and the superlative is most boldly.

Examples of superlative in a Sentence

Adjective The superlative form of “nice” is “nicest”; the superlative form of “bad” is “worst”; the superlative form of “interesting” is “most interesting.” the New England town meeting is a superlative example of grassroots democracy Noun “Simplest” is the superlative of “simple.”
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
When the 26-year-old scored a superlative 267 against Pakistan in Southampton in the ghostly Covid surroundings of the bio bubble in 2020, there were hopes that this could be the start of a great career. Tim Ellis, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 Patrick Mahomes, the superlative Kansas City quarterback, may complete that many passes on his first drive Sunday. Billy Witz Sinna Nasseri, New York Times, 10 Feb. 2024 The museum is buying superlative examples of Judaica, such as a Polish Torah crown from around 1800. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 1 Feb. 2024 Numerous vessels have since earned the superlative — mostly in the Royal Caribbean fleet — and Icon is the latest to take the crown. Stefanie Waldek, Travel + Leisure, 25 Jan. 2024 In a world that loves a superlative, Tampa has secured a spot on an outsized amount of best-of lists of late thanks to new and rapid development. Terry Ward, Condé Nast Traveler, 12 Jan. 2024 Not for the show’s superlative writing, nor its directing, nor for any of the supporting cast (Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito). Kate Aurthur, Variety, 16 Jan. 2024 Ever Recorded on Earth Andrea Thompson Last year’s superlative temperatures were almost entirely linked to climate change. Andrea Thompson, Scientific American, 12 Jan. 2024 Taking the long view then, 2023, is, at best, a so-so candidate in the superlative badness sweepstakes. Thomas Doherty, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Dec. 2023
Noun
Lily Gladstone's high-school superlative may have been right on the money! Jen Juneau, Peoplemag, 25 Jan. 2024 Security posture has evolved from a superlative to a crucial factor that affects the bottom line. Eric Noonan, Fortune, 20 Dec. 2023 To see all of Ohtani’s stats, click here The superlatives when describing Ohtani are numerous. Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times, 11 Dec. 2023 In addition to the sonic superlatives, the Dookie vinyl box also contains such cheeky memorabilia as doggie doo bags, an air freshener, a poster, coloring litho, buttons, magnets, a postcard, a bumper sticker, and even a paper plane. Ron Hart, SPIN, 8 Dec. 2023 Barrino didn’t hide her emotions after she was introduced with many superlatives by none other than Oprah Winfrey, who co-starred in the 1985 film adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel and is a producer on the remake. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 17 Nov. 2023 Renée Fleming There aren’t enough superlatives to describe her magic and her seamless approach to every genre. Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Times, 14 Oct. 2023 First-half superlatives Shohei Ohtani is the runaway AL MVP frontrunner at this point. Peter Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, 8 July 2023 In a parade of evocative superlatives, a regular full moon seems passé. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'superlative.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English superlatif, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin superlativus, from Latin superlatus (past participle of superferre to carry over, raise high), from super- + latus, past participle of ferre to carry — more at tolerate, bear

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of superlative was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near superlative

Cite this Entry

“Superlative.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superlative. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

superlative

1 of 2 adjective
su·​per·​la·​tive su̇-ˈpər-lət-iv How to pronounce superlative (audio)
1
: of, relating to, or being the form of an adjective or adverb that shows the highest or lowest degree of comparison
2
: better than all others : supreme
superlatively adverb

superlative

2 of 2 noun
1
: the superlative degree or a superlative form in a language
2
: the superlative or utmost degree of something
3
: a superlative person or thing

More from Merriam-Webster on superlative

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