Definition of surface in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsərfəs/


1The outside part or uppermost layer of something (often used when describing its texture, form, or extent): the earth’s surface poor road surfaces
More example sentences
  • A survey of 2,200 drivers showed that one in three suffered mood changes blaming the weather, tiredness or even poor road surfaces.
  • City of York Council chiefs said the work had to be done because the road surface was in such poor condition.
  • Tyres fail to grip when brakes are applied and contact with the road surface is poor.
outside, exterior;
top, side;
finish, veneer
1.1The level top of something: roll out the dough on a floured surface
More example sentences
  • Assemble the table on a level surface, turn the top wheel upside down and place the seat wheel on top of it.
  • To start the engine hold the saw firmly in a position on a level surface by putting the right foot in the handle and making sure the chain is clear.
  • Make sure to position barbecues on firm, level surfaces before starting to cook and never carry or move a lit barbecue.
counter, table
1.2 (also surface area) The area of such an outer part or uppermost layer: the surface area of a cube
More example sentences
  • Untouched wild places have now shrunk to one-sixth of the Earth's land surface.
1.3 [in singular] The upper limit of a body of liquid: fish floating on the surface of the water
More example sentences
  • It is universally understood that heaving a major portion of your body over the surface of the water is a tough thing to do.
  • Why can we see beneath water whereas the ray of vision reflects off opaque bodies and the surface of water is opaque?
  • She was veiled in a dark cloak, billowing around her slim body and skimming the surface of the water.
1.4 [in singular] What is apparent on a casual view or consideration of someone or something, especially as distinct from feelings or qualities that are not immediately obvious: Tom was a womanizer, but on the surface he remained respectable [as modifier]: we need to go beyond surface appearances
More example sentences
  • Both see the lasting truth beneath the surface of mere outward appearance.
  • What distinguished many of the Young British Artists was their reluctance to probe beyond the surface of appearance.
  • We peer deep beneath the surface of appearances, and far into the cosmic past.
outward appearance, facade
at first glance, to the casual eye, outwardly, to all appearances, apparently, ostensibly, superficially, externally
2 Geometry A continuous set of points that has length and breadth but no thickness.
Example sentences
  • Among closed surfaces, spherical, flat, and hyperbolic geometry are mutually exclusive.
  • In this case, the toroidal surface has become an off-axis segment of an ellipsoid.
  • He also considered curves of double curvature on the sphere and the quadrature of parts of a spherical surface.


1Relating to or occurring on the upper or outer part of something: surface workers at the copper mines
More example sentences
  • The fish seem to love the surface layers at this budget-priced urban oasis with a couple of anglers getting a bite with chuck fishing casters on the drop.
  • Ground-source heat pumps pull energy from solar heat stored in the surface layer of the ground.
  • When the vegetation dies, the dead biomass eventually becomes peat in the surface layer where it is subjected to decomposition.
superficial, external, exterior, outward, ostensible, apparent, cosmetic, skin deep
1.1Denoting ships that travel on the surface of the water as distinct from submarines: the surface fleet
More example sentences
  • The primary mission of Neustrashimy Class frigates is to combat submarines and surface ships.
  • Testing surface ships by submarines is just one of the facets of RIMPAC 04.
  • It was the second participation by a surface ship of the Royal Navy.
1.2Carried by or denoting transportation by sea or overland as contrasted with by air: surface mail
More example sentences
  • And Little England gears to upgrade surface transportation in readiness for the cricket World Cup.
  • In the morning we will fly on to Yundum airport and take surface transportation into Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.
  • We should just switch to IM-based communication, and treat email like fax or surface mail.


1 [no object] Rise or come up to the surface of the water or the ground: he surfaced from his dive
More example sentences
  • He smiled at his wife before diving into the cool water, surfacing and glancing at Emily expectantly.
  • She did an almost perfect dive into the water as well and surfaced next to him.
  • Adri surfaced and wiped the water off of her face.
come to the surface, come up, rise
1.1Come to people’s attention; become apparent: the quarrel first surfaced two years ago
More example sentences
  • Had they both had a chance of success, the issue might have surfaced and received the real attention which the main parties tried to stifle.
  • Two main issues have surfaced with the presence of IM on corporate networks.
  • A last-minute story has surfaced, designed apparently to damage the Bush effort for the presidency.
emerge, arise, appear, come to light, crop up, materialize, spring up
1.2 informal (Of a person) appear after having been asleep: it was almost noon before Anthony surfaced
More example sentences
  • The scene was still and quiet, but all the same I had surfaced from my dreams nervously, with heavy breathing.
get up, get out of bed, rise, wake, awaken, appear
2 [with object] (usually be surfaced) Provide (something, especially a road) with a particular upper or outer layer: a small path surfaced with terra-cotta tiles
More example sentences
  • Concrete blocks to surface the roads can be constructed in a process similar to the roof tiles.
  • Mrs Mountford said the final houses had been built on the estate last September and the developer had promised to surface the roads but no progress had been made.
  • Local firm Chestnut Developments had wanted to build in the gardens and surface the unmade lane.





Early 17th century: from French (see sur-1, face), suggested by Latin superficies.

  • superficial from Late Middle English:

    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 surface


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: sur·face

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