Definition of superficial in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌso͞opərˈfiSHəl/


1Existing or occurring at or on the surface: the building suffered only superficial damage
More example sentences
  • The damage was superficial and the problem fixed.
  • It is as if the novel's intellectual and ideological muddle is merely a superficial layer of flotsam bobbing on a boiling sea of emotion.
  • For every study finding that they are safe, there is one suggesting that they might indeed cause some damage, superficial or otherwise.
surface, exterior, external, outer, outside, slight
1.1Situated or occurring on the skin or immediately beneath it: the superficial muscle groups
More example sentences
  • Masson takes him to a nearby doctor who allays his fears that he only suffered superficial flesh wounds - he has nothing serious to worry about.
  • I was in two major car accidents, which left me with superficial scars that I will carry the rest of my life.
  • A spokesman confirmed he was detained overnight with superficial injuries.
1.2Appearing to be true or real only until examined more closely: the resemblance between the breeds is superficial
More example sentences
  • A superficial comparison of Roth with Malamud reveals two versions of the problems of self-definition which is at the core of this literature.
  • His new collection, Oblivion, contains eight stories of uncompromising difficulty, with certain superficial similarities.
  • It only affirms the hugely popular, superficial notion of a culture in crisis, of a culture lost in a constant loop of revivals.
apparent, seeming, outward, ostensible, cosmetic, slight
1.3Not thorough, deep, or complete; cursory: he had only the most superficial knowledge of foreign countries
More example sentences
  • Before reading the book I only had a superficial knowledge of his life and career.
  • He gives a superficial and inadequate account of Kipling's curious, subtle, savage, contradictory passion for England, which was both his home and his place of exile.
  • But only for people who have had sufficient experience of their own - and then only to appreciate other situations, not to pronounce on them with the most superficial of knowledge.
cursory, perfunctory, casual, sketchy, desultory, token, slapdash, offhand, rushed, hasty, hurried
1.4Not having or showing any depth of character or understanding: perhaps I was a superficial person
More example sentences
  • In Maelstrom, the main characters are slick, superficial people who deepen emotionally because of the trauma.
  • On the whole, the cast does a very nice job with their superficial characters and makes them charming, funny, and/or despicable as needed.
  • And the characters are so superficial that we hardly care which of these different fates may befall them.
shallow, surface, skin-deep, artificial;
empty, hollow, meaningless
facile, shallow, flippant, empty-headed, trivial, frivolous, silly, inane



Example sentences
  • Fashionable implies superficialness, a preoccupation with identity and consumption rather than an interest in politics and foreign policy.
  • He wants people to look beyond the superficialness of the subject's surface and see the beauty within.
  • This game certainly had potential but now is stuck in superficialness and this results in a lot of missed opportunities.


Late Middle English: from late Latin superficialis, from Latin superficies (see superficies).

  • This is from Latin superficies ‘surface’, and was at first used in the literal sense. The word came to be applied to people meaning ‘shallow’ in the early 17th century (Shakespeare Measure for Measure: ‘A very superficial, ignorant, unweighing fellow’). Surface (early 17th century) was a 16th-century French coinage based on the Latin.

Words that rhyme with superficial

artificial, beneficial, initial, interstitial, judicial, official, sacrificial, solstitial

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: su·per·fi·cial

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