sur·​face | \ ˈsər-fəs How to pronounce surface (audio) \

Definition of surface

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the exterior or upper boundary of an object or body on the surface of the water the earth's surface
2 : a plane or curved two-dimensional locus of points (such as the boundary of a three-dimensional region) plane surface surface of a sphere
3a : the external or superficial aspect of something trouble lurks below the surface
b : an external part or layer sanded the rough surfaces
on the surface
: to all outward appearances



Definition of surface (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : of, located on, or designed for use at the surface of something
b : situated, transported, or employed on the surface of the earth surface mail surface vehicles
2 : appearing to be such on the surface only : superficial surface friendships


surfaced; surfacing

Definition of surface (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to give a surface to: such as
a : to plane or make smooth
b : to apply the surface layer to surface a highway
2 : to bring to the surface surface a sunken ship

intransitive verb

1 : to work on or at the surface
2 : to come to the surface
3 : to come into public view : show up letters that have recently surfaced

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Other Words from surface


surfacer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for surface

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of surface in a Sentence

Noun The painting's surface is covered with fine cracks. The bowl has a shiny surface. The surface of wood was rough. Be careful of icy surfaces on the roads. Adjective Despite the surface differences between the two candidates, they are very similar in most ways. a surface stain on the wood that can easily be removed with a mild detergent Verb The whale surfaced and then dove back down. The information surfaced many years later. After several years, the actress surfaced in a comedy. The road needs to be surfaced again.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Add the water, then the citrus peels, twisting them over the surface of the water to express the oils. Washington Post, "Embrace the best of winter with these warm cocktails (whatever the temperature outside may be)," 8 Feb. 2020 Blooms can be sprinkled on a salad or pressed onto the surface of a soft cheese — maybe with some violas and pink or red English daisy petals. Pam Peirce,, "Edible flowers for your garden and dinner table," 7 Feb. 2020 But, as the researchers report in The Astrophysical Journal, for their planet to get close enough, the surface of the black hole would have to spin at less than a 100-millionth of a percent shy of the speed of light. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Could a habitable planet orbit a black hole?," 4 Feb. 2020 The fickle gusts ripple, then smooth the surface of the ankle-deep water that has been sustained by a wet winter. Erin Stone, azcentral, "Concerns grow that Trump's wall will damage rivers, wildlife habitat on Arizona border," 3 Feb. 2020 Step 2: File Down the Top Layer of Acrylic Using a 100-grit coarse nail file, begin to file down the acrylic coating to thin out the acrylic and to scratch up the surface a bit. Chelsea Hall, Marie Claire, "How to Remove Your Acrylic Nails Without Damaging Them," 31 Jan. 2020 New high-resolution photographs show the surface of the sun in sharp detail. Anthony Leonardi, Washington Examiner, "High-resolution photos show detailed surface of the sun," 30 Jan. 2020 Images from a powerful new telescope installed on top of a volcano in Hawaii show the surface of the sun in the closest detail yet, revealing features as small as 30km (18 miles) across. NBC News, "Never-before-seen details of the sun's surface revealed by new telescope," 30 Jan. 2020 The silversmith repeated this cutting, layering, soldering, and hammering 36 times until the sheet was as luminous and irregularly patterned as the surface of the moon seen from the earth. Brian T. Allen, National Review, "The Winter Show’s Many Small Treasures," 28 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Leifer, now 52, fled Australia in 2008 as child abuse allegations surfaced from her time as a teacher and principal at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne during the previous five years. Washington Post, "Australian Parliament to call for Israel to return principal," 10 Feb. 2020 However, Emerick emphasized the probability of a case surfacing here was low. Lauren Caruba,, "Coronavirus evacuees to be in San Antonio this week," 4 Feb. 2020 That spat surfaced when Revis criticized Sherman’s coverage abilities after the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. Ron Kroichick,, "49ers’ Richard Sherman on Super Bowl loss: ‘I wasn’t good enough tonight’," 2 Feb. 2020 When voters were asked to supply a phrase to describe the trial, one word surfaced prominently among members of both parties: sham. Aaron Zitner, WSJ, "Americans Stuck to Their Views on Trump Through Impeachment Trial," 2 Feb. 2020 Lucey says if the new data are accurate, the first human infections must have occurred in November—if not earlier—because there is an incubation time between infection and symptoms surfacing. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "Wuhan seafood market may not be source of novel virus spreading globally," 26 Jan. 2020 Later new complaints surfaced of people being shaken down for $1,500 to be put at the top of wait lists to present claims in the United States. Maria Verza, The Denver Post, "Migrants stuck in lawless limbo within sight of America," 18 Nov. 2019 This was not last season’s LeBron, his issues surfacing at a similar media day filled with vastly different perceptions. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, "Column: LeBron James no longer acting like a stranger to the Lakers and their fans," 27 Sep. 2019 But just weeks before classes started that year, Awwad was under investigation after a series of anonymous complaints surfaced about his relationship with a subordinate. oregonlive, "One year and $675,000 later, Portland Public Schools settles with former top administrator who dated subordinate," 12 Sep. 2019

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


circa 1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1642, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1778, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for surface


French, from Middle French, from sur- + face face, from Old French — more at face

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Time Traveler for surface

Time Traveler

The first known use of surface was circa 1600

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Statistics for surface

Last Updated

12 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surface.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for surface


How to pronounce surface (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of surface

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: an outside part or layer of something
: the upper layer of an area of land or water
: the flat, top part of something (such as a table or desk) that you can work on



English Language Learners Definition of surface (Entry 2 of 3)

: involving only the parts that are easy to see or notice
: involving the removal of the surface of a large area of land to get at coal or other material that is near to the surface



English Language Learners Definition of surface (Entry 3 of 3)

: to rise to the surface of water
: to appear or become obvious after being hidden or not seen
: to put a surface on (something, such as a road)


sur·​face | \ ˈsər-fəs How to pronounce surface (audio) \

Kids Definition of surface

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the outside or any one side of an object She floated on the water's surface.
2 : the outside appearance On the surface the idea seems good.



Kids Definition of surface (Entry 2 of 3)

: not deep or real a surface wound a surface friendship


surfaced; surfacing

Kids Definition of surface (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to come to the surface The submarine surfaced.
2 : to become obvious Claudia's impatience surfaced.— E. L. Konigsburg, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
3 : to give a new top layer to : make smooth (as by sanding or paving)


sur·​face | \ ˈsər-fəs How to pronounce surface (audio) \

Medical Definition of surface

: the exterior or upper boundary of an object or body the mesial and distal surfaces of a tooth

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More from Merriam-Webster on surface

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for surface

Spanish Central: Translation of surface

Nglish: Translation of surface for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of surface for Arabic Speakers

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