top·​i·​cal | \ˈtä-pi-kəl \

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

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Other Words from topical

topically \ ˈtä-​pi-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

Did You Know?

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

First step, try to clear the blemishes on your own with a topical acne cream. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "Ear Pimples Are Real — Here's How to Get Rid of Them," 19 Sep. 2018 But even at its slowest, Disenchantment avoids trying to cash in on cheap, topical jokes or series-specific satire. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Disenchantment review: Groening’s new Netflix toon is off to a bloody good start," 7 Aug. 2018 But thanks to a warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), teething products containing benzocaine, a topical anesthetic, will have to come off shelves. Korin Miller, SELF, "The FDA Wants Benzocaine Teething Products Taken Off the Market," 24 May 2018 The common topical anesthetic in teething gels, prays, ointments, and lozenges can lead to a serious and sometimes fatal condition called methemoglobinemia, in which red blood cells can no longer carry as much oxygen. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Don't Use Baby Teething Medicine With Benzocaine, the FDA Warns," 23 May 2018 Once the whitehead has been manually removed before bed, Renée says to treat the area with an overnight topical product, like her Nighttime Spot Lotion, which contains sulfur, zinc oxide, and camphor, to further remove any infection in the follicle. Brooke Shunatona, Cosmopolitan, "Here's Exactly How to Get Rid of a Zit... Fast," 7 Mar. 2018 Even a trip to the dermatologist for breakouts meant coming home with both topical and oral antibiotics. Katheryn Erickson, Glamour, "Why You're Probably Overwashing Your Face," 2 May 2018 But now, your 20-something body is responding with cystic zits—those deep, painful, underground bumps that never come to a head, can't (and shouldn't) be popped, and don’t respond as well to topical medications. Chloe Metzger, Marie Claire, "The Quarter-Life Skin Crisis: Why Women Are Suddenly Breaking Out in Their Mid-20s," 30 Apr. 2018 Depending on the size and depth of the affected cells, treatment options including topical medications, cutting the cancer away during surgery or radiation therapy. Kashmira Gander, Newsweek, "What Is Basal-cell Carcinoma?: Caitlyn Jenner Has Sun Damage Removed From Her Nose," 21 Mar. 2018

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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Statistics for topical

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for topical

The first known use of topical was circa 1525

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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

medical : made to be put on the skin


top·​i·​cal | \ˈtäp-i-kəl \

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 \ adverb

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Comments on topical

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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