su·​per·​flu·​ous su̇-ˈpər-flü-əs How to pronounce superfluous (audio)
: exceeding what is sufficient or necessary : extra
: not needed : unnecessary
obsolete : marked by wastefulness : extravagant
superfluously adverb
superfluousness noun

Did you know?

If you think that superfluous must mean "extra 'fluous,'" along the pattern of such words as superabsorbent and superabundant, you're not far off. Superfluous comes from the Latin adjective superfluus, meaning literally "running over" or "overflowing." Superfluus, in turn, derives from the combination of the prefix super- (meaning "over" or "more") and fluere, "to flow." (Fluere also gave us fluid, fluent, and influence, among others.) Since its first appearance in English in the 15th century, superfluous has referred to an "overflowing" of some supply, as of time or words, which hearkens back to its Latin origins.

Examples of superfluous in a Sentence

In the Imagist model, the writer is a sculptor. Technique consists of chipping away everything superfluous in order to reveal the essential form within. "It took you ninety-seven words to do it," Pound is reported to have remarked to a young literary aspirant who had handed him a new poem. "I find it could have been managed in fifty-six." Louis Menand, New Yorker, 9 & 16 June 2008
Oddly, despite the preponderance of superfluous words, the book has no glossary, which is a must for an introductory audience. Dorothy Merritts, Eos, 3 Oct. 2000
Twenty years ago, baby boomers were written about as if every one of them had as a life goal making enough money to accumulate the same superfluous material objects that everyone else had. Calvin Trillin, Time, 6 Sept. 1999
cleared off all the superfluous stuff on his desk to make room for the new computer
Recent Examples on the Web Hide cords, relocate superfluous appliances, and stick to the classic formula of a desk, a table lamp, one accessory, and a chair. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 22 Aug. 2023 Foods with natural packaging, like whole lemons and bananas, are spared the superfluous layers of plastic. Treehugger Editors, Treehugger, 29 June 2023 The ultimate vision is to not only position its AI Health Assistant at the forefront of AI healthcare but also to profoundly impact global health by minimizing misdiagnoses and superfluous treatments. Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 23 Aug. 2023 Adding superfluous info that isn’t directly tied to the pitch is unnecessary and might even be a hindrance to getting pickup. Expert Panel®, Forbes, 16 Mar. 2023 Gosling, who plays Barbie’s superfluous counterpart Ken in the blockbuster film, was featured in a clip promoting the ballad ahead of the movie’s release last month. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 3 Aug. 2023 Nothing, after all, is more superfluous than civilization itself. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 20 Mar. 2023 For others, a generational gap is to blame for misunderstanding social media as merely superfluous or distracting. Carly Lewis, WIRED, 2 Mar. 2023 Shirtless in the bedroom of his Mojo Dojo Casa House, Ken laments his existence as a superfluous accessory created to complement her. Ashley Lee, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'superfluous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin superfluus, literally, running over, from superfluere to overflow, from super- + fluere to flow — more at fluid

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of superfluous was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near superfluous

Cite this Entry

“Superfluous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


su·​per·​flu·​ous su̇-ˈpər-flə-wəs How to pronounce superfluous (audio)
: going beyond what is enough or necessary : extra

Middle English superfluous "more than is needed," from Latin superfluus, literally, "running over," from superfluere "to overflow," from super- "over, in addition," and fluere "to flow" — related to fluid

More from Merriam-Webster on superfluous

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