Origin of surface

1605–15; < French, equivalent to sur- sur-1 + face face, apparently modeled on Latin superficies superficies
Related formssur·face·less, adjectivesur·fac·er, nounnon·sur·face, noun, adjectiveun·sur·faced, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for surface

Contemporary Examples of surface

Historical Examples of surface

  • See how their shining hair sparkles on the surface of the waters!


    Lydia Maria Child

  • A foreign stain floated on the surface, but never mingled with its waters.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Yet see now, these funny little animals on the surface of the spinning-ball.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Surface manifestations are, in and of themselves, merely deceptive.

    'Tis Sixty Years Since

    Charles Francis Adams

  • There was abundance of water on the surface in the hollows of the sand-hills.

British Dictionary definitions for surface



  1. the exterior face of an object or one such face
  2. (as modifier)surface gloss
  1. the area or size of such a face
  2. (as modifier)surface measurements
material resembling such a face, with length and width but without depth
  1. the superficial appearance as opposed to the real nature
  2. (as modifier)a surface resemblance
  1. the complete boundary of a solid figure
  2. a continuous two-dimensional configuration
  1. the uppermost level of the land or sea
  2. (as modifier)surface transportation
come to the surface to emerge; become apparent
on the surface to all appearances


to rise or cause to rise to or as if to the surface (of water, etc)
(tr) to treat the surface of, as by polishing, smoothing, etc
(tr) to furnish with a surface
(intr) mining
  1. to work at or near the ground surface
  2. to wash surface ore deposits
(intr) to become apparent; emerge
(intr) informal
  1. to wake up
  2. to get up
Derived Formssurfaceless, adjectivesurfacer, noun

Word Origin for surface

C17: from French, from sur on + face face, probably on the model of 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

Word Origin and History for surface

1610s, from French surface "outermost boundary of anything, outside part" (16c.), from Old French sur- "above" (see sur-) + face (see face (n.)). Patterned on Latin superficies "surface" (see superficial).


"come to the surface," 1898, from surface (n.). Earlier it meant "bring to the surface" (1885), and "to give something a polished surface" (1778). Related: Surfaced; surfacing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

surface in Medicine




The outer or topmost part of a solid structure.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with surface


see on the surface; scratch the surface.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.