Definition of superficial in English:

superficial

adjective

  • 1Existing or occurring at or on the surface.

    ‘the building suffered only superficial damage’
    • ‘If I put my hands around a man's neck and squeeze, I may inflict only superficial damage.’
    • ‘His equipment would be merged with existing industry sensors that nondestructively assess superficial visual traits, including size, color, and bruising.’
    • ‘Criticism must see beyond superficial décor to spiritual purpose and order.’
    • ‘The damage was superficial and the problem fixed.’
    • ‘For every study finding that they are safe, there is one suggesting that they might indeed cause some damage, superficial or otherwise.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Yet from Dione's point of view, their realism and design are superficial features.’
    • ‘Latent infection is seen as the scabby, superficial lesions on roots.’
    • ‘The connection between the two is not external and superficial, but deeply internal and causal.’
    • ‘Golding's challenge to any definite sense of comprehension through superficial perception is inextricably entwined with his writing's own visual aspects.’
    surface, exterior, external, outer, outside, outermost, peripheral, slight
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Situated or occurring on the skin or immediately beneath it.
      ‘the superficial muscle groups’
      • ‘A spokesman confirmed he was detained overnight with superficial injuries.’
      • ‘They were treated for smoke inhalation and superficial burns.’
      • ‘I was in two major car accidents, which left me with superficial scars that I will carry the rest of my life.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2Appearing to be true or real only until examined more closely.

    ‘the resemblance between the breeds is superficial’
    • ‘He did not make the mistake of judging Catalans not only by their difference from other Spaniards but by superficial resemblances to French ways and style.’
    • ‘A superficial comparison of Roth with Malamud reveals two versions of the problems of self-definition which is at the core of this literature.’
    • ‘While there is a superficial resemblance in shape, the Atech lacks some of the more elegant features of the Macintosh, such as the clamshell design, but adds some nifty features for system builders.’
    • ‘The weakness of many of these fads is that they have the superficial appearance that something profound is happening, yet the substance is not there.’
    • ‘Most of the problems are superficial and have no real substance.’
    • ‘Whilst these conclusions may have a superficial validity they say nothing of the dynamics and processes of change and the social content underlying the institutional restructuring explored by the authors.’
    • ‘The superficial distinction, that architects necessarily have to deal with the urban context while sculptors can choose to avoid it, conceals much more complicated variations.’
    • ‘That said there does appear to be some superficial evidence that suggests the period from May to September is a dull period for shares.’
    • ‘It only affirms the hugely popular, superficial notion of a culture in crisis, of a culture lost in a constant loop of revivals.’
    • ‘At a superficial level, I was different because I wore different clothes, cracked different jokes, interacted with students differently.’
    • ‘The landscape rolls by with superficial uneventfulness until the eye begins to entertain itself by finding distinctive features.’
    • ‘On a purely superficial level, this album mirrors its predecessor so closely I ought to really give them identical grades.’
    • ‘Despite superficial resemblances to their medieval predecessors, these Lutheran altarpieces share a number of striking new features.’
    • ‘While this correlation between domestic dictatorship and foreign aggression has a superficial plausibility, it is simply not true on the factual, historical record.’
    • ‘This principle states that, despite the superficial power enjoyed by the capitalists and landowners, the true bosses under capitalism are the consumers.’
    • ‘Sensibly, I think, he acknowledges that comics and movies are two wildly different media, despite superficial resemblances.’
    • ‘That is, they sound good on a superficial level, but a look at the fine print shows a different picture.’
    • ‘At a superficial level, an appreciation of 16% may seem like a pretty good return over eleven months.’
    • ‘His new collection, Oblivion, contains eight stories of uncompromising difficulty, with certain superficial similarities.’
    • ‘Correspondingly, each claimed that the other remained entangled in, and misled by, a superficial, merely apparent reality.’
    • ‘There are certain superficial resemblances, say, to the nineties films such as American Beauty, or the recent Ghost World.’
    apparent, specious, seeming, outward, ostensible, cosmetic, slight
    View synonyms
  • 3Not thorough, deep, or complete; cursory.

    ‘he had only the most superficial knowledge of foreign countries’
    • ‘It was written from kind of a superficial, Hollywood point of view, essentially filled, I think, with a lot of lies by omission.’
    • ‘Anyone with even the most superficial aquaintence with the history of the French revolution will know what that means, in nine cases out of ten.’
    • ‘The rest is superficial, a blight of the modern obsession with looks and image.’
    • ‘The characters themselves are little more than superficial sketches that become increasingly indistinguishable as the movie proceeds.’
    • ‘Writing stand-up only heightens my sense that one joke, plus another joke, plus another all adds up to a superficial experience.’
    • ‘Critics with a superficial understanding of the principle imagine that it would force all land into use and lead to overdevelopment.’
    • ‘A 14-minute featurette entitled ‘A Talent for Life: Iris’ gives a fairly superficial look at the making of the film.’
    • ‘Paradoxically, this show is both mind-numbingly sombre and utterly superficial.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was too superficial an examination of the subject, which ironically reminded me that there is quite a bit that I don't know about history in general.’
    • ‘The general impression was of a scrappy and superficial campaign, facing a coherent and single-minded Government.’
    • ‘But this is pretty lame stuff - dated, superficial, unfocused and only intermittently engrossing.’
    • ‘Perhaps the biggest disappointment is his extremely superficial treatment of the historical experience of the now developed countries.’
    • ‘It's all very superficial and doesn't really explore any issues it does raise.’
    • ‘The insights are superficial too, but it is a light comedy after all.’
    • ‘The film suggests that it is better to understand and accept the condition as normal than to try to eradicate it with supposed miracle cures, or superficial lifestyle changes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In short, the museum should strive to do something more than facilitate superficial understandings and mere idol worship.’
    • ‘It's too light to be a spoof, too superficial to get to the real meat of why rap culture inspires so many privileged peons.’
    • ‘Before reading the book I only had a superficial knowledge of his life and career.’
    • ‘Maybe the relatively superficial thinking behind the French poster designs stems from a sense of helplessness and an inability to really grasp the whole of the monumental injustices occurring.’
    • ‘Despite some superficial and unfounded criticism about the fact that the manual would be outdated, much of it still retains significant validity.’
    • ‘Dialogue is sparse, so the humour is superficial, not character-driven, and shows up as glib one-liners.’
    cursory, perfunctory, casual, sketchy, desultory, unconsidered, token, slapdash, slipshod, offhand, inadequate, imperfect, slight
    View synonyms
    1. 3.1 Lacking depth of character or understanding.
      ‘perhaps I was a superficial person’
      • ‘On the whole, the cast does a very nice job with their superficial characters and makes them charming, funny, and/or despicable as needed.’
      • ‘Actually I think it makes the characters seem whiney and irritating and erm… superficial.’
      • ‘The mother, of course, is ditzy, frazzled and superficial because there can be no real happiness beyond the city limits.’
      • ‘Bitty Schram is suitably superficial and irritating as Hallie.’
      • ‘In Maelstrom, the main characters are slick, superficial people who deepen emotionally because of the trauma.’
      • ‘Surely the female species is not so superficial?’
      • ‘I can't imagine any lady in real life being so easily seduced by so superficial a character.’
      • ‘So, he decided to inhabit a character who was very much like he was in real life: Brash, glib, superficial and immensely appreciative of beautiful women.’
      • ‘I actually found all of the characters tremendously superficial and predictable in a lot of ways.’
      • ‘What conversation exists is trapped in a level of superficial banality.’
      • ‘Mullings' portrayal of the duplicitous wife is forced and superficial.’
      • ‘It is the vision of an Englishman, a sportsman and a visitor yet not that of a superficial tourist, and, irritating as it might be to the Scottish nationalist in the age of devolution, it still exerts a powerful appeal.’
      • ‘And the characters are so superficial that we hardly care which of these different fates may befall them.’
      • ‘Like all single career women, Bridget is a slobbering alcoholic, a superficial ninny posing as a competent professional and intellectual.’
      • ‘That's why fearful people with weak, inconsistent or superficial values tend to lack influence or any genuine success.’
      • ‘She worries that people think she is superficial, and the deeper Anne cannot withstand that.’
      • ‘Nothing is that wrong with Sex and the City - well unless you look beyond the humour and realise how superficial the women are - although the latest series has been dreary.’
      • ‘A lot of the judgements that designers make about other designers are superficial.’
      • ‘However, the better you know Doucet's sources, the more you realize how superficial his version is.’
      • ‘The script lacks any such subtleties and none of the cast is skillful enough to be able to suggest any depth beyond the script's superficial characterizations.’
      • ‘Shreve gives a very superficial rendering of her characters.’
      shallow, surface, on the surface, skin-deep, minimal, artificial
      facile, shallow, glib, flippant, thoughtless, empty-headed, trivial, frivolous, silly, inane, without depth, fatuous
      View synonyms
  • 4British Building
    Denoting a quantity of a material expressed in terms of area covered rather than linear dimension or volume.

Origin

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

Pronunciation

superficial

/ˌsuːpəˈfɪʃ(ə)l/