sur·​re·​al | \ sə-ˈrē(-ə)l How to pronounce surreal (audio) also -ˈrā-əl \

Essential Meaning of surreal

: very strange or unusual : having the quality of a dream a surreal atmosphere/experience The whole thing was completely surreal.

Full Definition of surreal

1 : marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream also : unbelievable, fantastic surreal sums of money

Other Words from surreal

surreality \ (ˌ)sə-​rē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce surreal (audio) \ noun
surreally adverb

Did you know?

In 1924 a group of European poets, painters, and filmmakers founded a movement that they called Surrealism. Their central idea was that the unconscious mind (a concept Sigmund Freud had recently made famous) was the source of all imagination, and that art should try to express its contents. The unconscious, they believed, revealed itself most clearly in dreams. The Surrealist painters included René Magritte, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí, whose "limp watches" painting became the best-known Surrealist image of all. Since those years, we've used surreal to describe all kinds of situations that strike us as dreamlike. And even though the Surrealist movement ended long ago, surrealism now seems to be everywhere—not just in painting, literature, and movies but also in blogs, video games, and graphic novels.

Examples of surreal in a Sentence

Despite all the hassle, though, I would not want an ordinary name. I know of one other person in the world who shares my name, first and last. I know nothing about her except that she lived in New York at the same time I did, and that she and I subscribed to a few of the same publications. I found myself in the surreal position of having to explain to circulation departments that I was, in fact, me, and not that other version of me on the West Side. — Johnna Kaplan, Newsweek, 3 Mar. 2008 Films aren't just a part of life for people in India; they are a way of life. The over-the-top, surreal dance numbers in nearly every Bollywood film often make no sense in relation to the story, but no one seems to be complaining. — Shashank Samant, The Out Traveler, May/June 2005 The movie achieves a truly rare mix of the absurd, the surreal, and the heartfelt. Improbably, its wacked-out premise and structural hilarity concoct a melancholy meditation on love, loss, and memory, while delivering a message—subversive to our culture's therapeutic optimism—about the tragedy of healing. — Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal, 23 Apr. 2004 The whole thing was completely surreal.
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Recent Examples on the Web The gold-rush atmosphere can be surreal for the Saudi filmmakers who struggled when cinemas at home were banned, film permits were tortuous to secure and the industry was shunned. New York Times, 27 Dec. 2021 Coming from a former NBA MVP, the words were particularly surreal. Los Angeles Times, 9 Oct. 2021 Ivey’s first-person account is nearly surreal, it’s that terrifying. Longreads, 13 Sep. 2021 So many of the recent military conflicts (involving the U.S.) have taken place overseas, so this level of death and carnage on American soil was a bit surreal. Bob Dohr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7 Sep. 2021 Avavav’s creative director Beate Karlsson has a knack for the surreal, having previously worked with conceptual artists Ida Jonsson and Simon Saarinen and on Pyer Moss’ debut couture collection. Frances Solá-santiago,, 4 Jan. 2022 Bob Mortimer is a hoot and a half in this episode, bringing his particular brand of surreal filth. Bethy Squires, Vulture, 1 Jan. 2022 But thanks to eccentric humor and surreal elements, the show often veers away from traditional plot to highlight issues like race, fame, beauty image, social media, mental illness and more. Nina Garin, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Dec. 2021 Host Michelle Shephard and Thorpe discuss his experience, along with the surreal bureaucracy of extremist organizations. Eric Mcquade, The Atlantic, 27 Dec. 2021

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

1937, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for surreal

back-formation from surrealism

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Time Traveler for surreal

Time Traveler

The first known use of surreal was in 1937

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Surreal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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