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

Definition of surreal

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from surreal

surreality \ (ˌ)sə-​rē-​ˈa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce surreality (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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Bing’s fashion photos, including her images of fancy shoes, have a gently surreal quality, as does her image of a vendor’s briefcase full of miniature Eiffel Towers. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Cleveland Museum of Art celebrates mid-century modern photography by Ilse Bing, ‘Queen of the Leica’," 12 July 2020 Coming back through King’s Cross and stepping on the Tube was always a surreal experience; from a land punctuated by received pronunciation, I was thrust into a melee of accents and languages, and greeted by people of all ethnicities. Jumi Akinfenwa,, "“I Was The Only Black Person At The Pub”: Trying To Fit In Cost Me My Identity," 8 July 2020 With no fans allowed in the friendly confines, that setting will be more than a bit surreal, with the closest spectators on the rooftops across the street. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers open 2020 schedule against Cubs at Wrigley, play home opener against Cardinals," 6 July 2020 Being at the protests has been a surreal, almost out-of-body experience. Savannah Eadens, The Courier-Journal, "Black queer pride: LGBTQ Kentuckians at the forefront of Black Lives Matter movement," 25 June 2020 Without people like me? Memories of these times have taken on a surreal twist. Sophie Madeline Dess, The New Republic, "Temping for the One Percent," 24 June 2020 The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, are surreal satires of American arrogance. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Will Ferrell’s New Comedy Is Goofy Escapism at Its Best," 27 June 2020 Reading a newspaper account of your ancestors’ fleeing for their lives is a surreal pain. Gregory B. Fairchild, The Conversation, "From grandfather to grandson, the lessons of the Tulsa race massacre," 19 June 2020 But nothing compares to the surreal feeling of playing and photographing a PGA Tour event with no fans. Tom Fox, Dallas News, "Dallas Morning News Outtakes: Silence in the midst of a pandemic," 18 June 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of surreal

1937, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for surreal

back-formation from surrealism

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about surreal

Time Traveler for surreal

Time Traveler

The first known use of surreal was in 1937

See more words from the same year

Statistics for surreal

Last Updated

31 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Surreal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for surreal


How to pronounce surreal (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of surreal

: very strange or unusual : having the quality of a dream

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on surreal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for surreal

Spanish Central: Translation of surreal

Nglish: Translation of surreal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of surreal for Arabic Speakers

Comments on surreal

What made you want to look up surreal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

July 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • papercraft sunset
  • Which is a synonym of mien?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!