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[suh-ree-uh-liz-uh m] /səˈri əˌlɪz əm/
noun, (sometimes initial capital letter)
a style of art and literature developed principally in the 20th century, stressing the subconscious or nonrational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism or the exploitation of chance effects, unexpected juxtapositions, etc.
Origin of surrealism
From the French word surréalisme, dating back to 1920-25. See sur-1, realism
Related forms
surrealist, noun, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for surrealist
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The screen was a surrealist painting, come alive, solid and real.

    Shock Treatment Stanley Mullen
  • There was a surrealist flash of the jaygee's face before he clipped him into the back of the square little truck.

    The Syndic C.M. Kornbluth
  • Somebody had turned on the electric fans, and long streams of flimsy fabric were blowing about like a surrealist maypole dance.

    Null-ABC Henry Beam Piper and John Joseph McGuire
British Dictionary definitions for surrealist


(sometimes capital) a movement in art and literature in the 1920s, which developed esp from dada, characterized by the evocative juxtaposition of incongruous images in order to include unconscious and dream elements
Derived Forms
surrealist, noun, adjective
surrealistic, adjective
surrealistically, adverb
Word Origin
C20: from French surréalisme, from sur-1 + réalismerealism
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for surrealist



1927, from French surréalisme (from sur- "beyond" + réalisme "realism"), coined c.1917 by Guillaume Apollinaire, taken over by Andre Breton as the name of the movement he launched in 1924 with "Manifeste de Surréalisme." Taken up in English at first in the French form; the anglicized version is from 1931.

De cette alliance nouvelle, car jusqu'ici les décors et les costumes d'une part, la chorégraphie d'autre part, n'avaient entre eux qu'un lien factice, il este résulté, dans 'Parade,' une sorte de surréalisme. [Apollinaire, "Notes to 'Parade' "]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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surrealist in Culture

surrealism definition

A movement in art and literature that flourished in the early twentieth century. Surrealism aimed at expressing imaginative dreams and visions free from conscious rational control. Salvador Dali was an influential surrealist painter; Jean Cocteau was a master of surrealist film.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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