top·​i·​cal | \ ˈtä-pi-kəl How to pronounce topical (audio) \

Definition of topical

1a : referring to the topics of the day or place : of local or temporary interest a topical novel topical references
b : of, relating to, or arranged by topics set down in topical form
2 : designed for or involving local application and action (as on the body) a topical anesthetic a topical remedy

Other Words from topical

topically \ ˈtä-​pi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce topical (audio) \ adverb

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Like a topical medicine, a topical reference or story applies to something specific, focusing on a topic that's currently in the news. TV comedians often use topical humor, making jokes about a currently popular movie or the latest political scandal—if possible, one that just broke that same day. Topical humor has a short lifespan, though, because the news keeps changing and the new hot topics just keep coming. The medical meaning of topical stays closer to the meaning of the root, since it describes something that's put right on the place that seems to need it.

Examples of topical in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web By the time del Toro finally got around to digging into Nightmare Alley in early 2018, his interest in the material had evolved in both topical and personal directions. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 18 Jan. 2022 But remember, as discussed above, the aluminum salts only temporarily block the sweat glands; topical aluminum does not accumulate high levels in the skin or body. Dr. Michael Daignault, USA TODAY, 14 Jan. 2022 Friends and fellow pastors attribute the rapid growth to Bentley’s approachability and his style of teaching through the books of the Bible, as opposed to bouncing around the text with more topical sermons. San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Jan. 2022 Pharmacological mostly involves the use of topical anesthetic creams or patches applied to the skin 30-60 minutes before the procedure that temporarily numb the area of the injection. Victoria Forster, Forbes, 2 Nov. 2021 At one picnic area, the lesson of the day was topical, if nerve-rattling: how to screw a fuse into the slab of high explosives of an anti-tank mine., 26 Dec. 2021 At one picnic area, the lesson of the day was topical, if nerve-rattling: how to screw a fuse into the slab of high explosives of an anti-tank mine. New York Times, 26 Dec. 2021 In trying too ardently to produce work that could be topical, Wearing veers off course. Anna Furman, Vulture, 9 Dec. 2021 The show certainly can’t function as comfort television alone; being topical has always been part of SNL’s mission. David Sims, The Atlantic, 21 Nov. 2021

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

circa 1525, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

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The first known use of topical was circa 1525

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Last Updated

21 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Topical.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of topical

: relating to current news or events : dealing with things that are important, popular, etc., right now
: made to be put on the skin


top·​i·​cal | \ ˈtäp-i-kəl How to pronounce topical (audio) \

Medical Definition of topical

: designed for or involving application to or action on the surface of a part of the body applied a topical anesthetic to numb the skin eyedrops used in the topical treatment of glaucoma

Other Words from topical

topically \ -​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce topical (audio) \ adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on topical

Nglish: Translation of topical for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of topical for Arabic Speakers


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