[ suh-ree-uh-liz-uhm ]

noun(sometimes initial capital letter)
  1. 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

Other words from surrealism

  • sur·re·al·ist, noun, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use surrealism in a sentence

  • 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
  • The screen was a surrealist painting, come alive, solid and real.

    Shock Treatment | Stanley Mullen
  • 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 surrealism


/ (səˈrɪəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. (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

Origin of surrealism

C20: from French surréalisme, from sur- 1 + réalisme realism

Derived forms of surrealism

  • surrealist, noun, adjective
  • surrealistic, adjective
  • surrealistically, adverb

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

Cultural definitions for surrealism


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.