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superman

[soo-per-man]
noun, plural su·per·men.
  1. a person of extraordinary or superhuman powers.
  2. an ideal superior being conceived by Nietzsche who attains happiness, dominance, and creativity.
  3. a superior being conceived as the product of human evolution.
  4. one who prevails by virtue of being a ruthless egoist of superior strength, cunning, and force of will.
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Origin of superman

1900–05; super- + man1, translation of German Übermensch

Usage note

See -man.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for superman

superman

noun plural -men
  1. (in the philosophy of Nietzsche) an ideal man who through integrity and creativity would rise above good and evil and who represents the goal of human evolution
  2. any man of apparently superhuman powers
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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

Word Origin and History for superman

n.

1903, coined by George Bernard Shaw to translate German Übermensch, "highly evolved human being that transcends good and evil," from "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (1883-91), by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). First used in German by Hermann Rab (1520s), and also used by Herder and Goethe. Translated as overman (1895) and beyond-man (1896) before Shaw got it right in his play title "Man and Superman" (1903). Application to comic strip hero is from 1938.

So was created ... Superman! champion of the oppressed, the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need! ["Action Comics," June 1, 1938]

Superwoman first recorded 1976 in the sense of "one who combines career and motherhood."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

superman in Culture

Superman

A seemingly immortal, superhuman comic-strip character created in the late 1930s, who hides his powers beneath the persona of Clark Kent, a mild-mannered newspaper reporter. Only when there is a threat of danger — often to his fellow reporter and secret love, Lois Lane — does Clark transform himself into the caped hero with x-ray vision.

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Note

Superman has been adapted for various radio and television series and a number of highly successful films.

Superman

An ideal of humanity found in Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche. The Superman, or Overman (the German is Übermensch), is the single goal of all human striving, for which people must be willing to sacrifice all. It is doubtful that Nietzsche thought of the Overman as an individual person.

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