[ soo-per-fish-uhl ]
/ ˌsu pərˈfɪʃ əl /
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Origin of superficial

1375–1425; late Middle English superfyciall<Late Latin superficiālis, equivalent to Latin superfici(ēs) superficies + -ālis-al1

OTHER WORDS FROM superficial

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does superficial mean?

Superficial describes something as being of or related to the surface, as a scratch on your arm would be a superficial wound.

Superficial can describe something that is literally close to a surface, such as a small cut, or figuratively close to the surface. When you and your sibling have the same nose shape and same eye color but don’t otherwise look like each other, you superficially look like each other. The sameness doesn’t go very far.

Example: This article is very superficial, barely sharing any details about the event.

Where does superficial come from?

The first records of the term superficial come from around 1375. It ultimately comes from the Latin superfici(ēs), meaning “the outer face,” and –ālis, meaning “of the kind of.”

One of the most common uses of superficial is to describe a wound as close to the surface of the skin. Usually superficial wounds are not threatening, which may have led to other senses, such as meaning “unimportant or trivial.” If you describe someone as superficial, you are implying that they are not thoughtful or profound and are concerned only with what’s on the surface of things.

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What are some other forms related to superficial?

  • superficiality (noun)
  • superficialness (noun)
  • superficially (adverb)
  • quasi-superficial (adjective)

What are some synonyms for superficial?

What are some words that share a root or word element with superficial

What are some words that often get used in discussing superficial?

How is superficial used in real life?

In medical usage, superficial has a specific meaning, but in everyday usage it’s used more generally.



Try using superficial!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for superficial?

A. shallow
B. frivolous
C. deep
D. casual

How to use superficial in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for superficial

/ (ˌsuːpəˈfɪʃəl) /

of, relating to, being near, or forming the surfacesuperficial bruising
displaying a lack of thoroughness or carea superficial inspection
only outwardly apparent rather than genuine or actualthe similarity was merely superficial
of little substance or significance; trivialsuperficial differences
lacking originality or profunditythe film's plot was quite superficial
(of measurements) involving only the surface area

Derived forms of superficial

superficiality (ˌsuːpəˌfɪʃɪˈælɪtɪ) or rare superficialness, nounsuperficially, adverb

Word Origin for superficial

C14: from Late Latin superficiālis of the surface, from Latin superficies
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

Medical definitions for superficial

[ sōō′pər-fĭshəl ]

Of, affecting, or being on or near the surface.
Not thorough.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.