Definition of superficial in English:



  • 1Existing or occurring at or on the surface.

    ‘the building suffered only superficial damage’
    • ‘For every study finding that they are safe, there is one suggesting that they might indeed cause some damage, superficial or otherwise.’
    • ‘Yet from Dione's point of view, their realism and design are superficial features.’
    • ‘If I put my hands around a man's neck and squeeze, I may inflict only superficial damage.’
    • ‘Latent infection is seen as the scabby, superficial lesions on roots.’
    • ‘Golding's challenge to any definite sense of comprehension through superficial perception is inextricably entwined with his writing's own visual aspects.’
    • ‘His equipment would be merged with existing industry sensors that nondestructively assess superficial visual traits, including size, color, and bruising.’
    • ‘The damage was superficial and the problem fixed.’
    • ‘The connection between the two is not external and superficial, but deeply internal and causal.’
    • ‘Criticism must see beyond superficial décor to spiritual purpose and order.’
    • ‘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.’
    surface, exterior, external, outer, outside, outermost, peripheral, slight
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    1. 1.1Situated or occurring on the skin or immediately beneath it.
      ‘the superficial muscle groups’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A spokesman confirmed he was detained overnight with superficial injuries.’
    2. 1.2Appearing to be true or real only until examined more closely.
      ‘the resemblance between the breeds is superficial’
      • ‘While this correlation between domestic dictatorship and foreign aggression has a superficial plausibility, it is simply not true on the factual, historical record.’
      • ‘That is, they sound good on a superficial level, but a look at the fine print shows a different picture.’
      • ‘That said there does appear to be some superficial evidence that suggests the period from May to September is a dull period for shares.’
      • ‘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 superficial distinction, that architects necessarily have to deal with the urban context while sculptors can choose to avoid it, conceals much more complicated variations.’
      • ‘The landscape rolls by with superficial uneventfulness until the eye begins to entertain itself by finding distinctive features.’
      • ‘There are certain superficial resemblances, say, to the nineties films such as American Beauty, or the recent Ghost World.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At a superficial level, I was different because I wore different clothes, cracked different jokes, interacted with students differently.’
      • ‘A superficial comparison of Roth with Malamud reveals two versions of the problems of self-definition which is at the core of this literature.’
      • ‘It only affirms the hugely popular, superficial notion of a culture in crisis, of a culture lost in a constant loop of revivals.’
      • ‘On a purely superficial level, this album mirrors its predecessor so closely I ought to really give them identical grades.’
      • ‘At a superficial level, an appreciation of 16% may seem like a pretty good return over eleven months.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 weakness of many of these fads is that they have the superficial appearance that something profound is happening, yet the substance is not there.’
      • ‘His new collection, Oblivion, contains eight stories of uncompromising difficulty, with certain superficial similarities.’
      • ‘Despite superficial resemblances to their medieval predecessors, these Lutheran altarpieces share a number of striking new features.’
      • ‘Correspondingly, each claimed that the other remained entangled in, and misled by, a superficial, merely apparent reality.’
      • ‘Most of the problems are superficial and have no real substance.’
      apparent, specious, seeming, outward, ostensible, cosmetic, slight
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    3. 1.3Not thorough, deep, or complete; cursory.
      ‘he had only the most superficial knowledge of foreign countries’
      • ‘In short, the museum should strive to do something more than facilitate superficial understandings and mere idol worship.’
      • ‘But this is pretty lame stuff - dated, superficial, unfocused and only intermittently engrossing.’
      • ‘Dialogue is sparse, so the humour is superficial, not character-driven, and shows up as glib one-liners.’
      • ‘Critics with a superficial understanding of the principle imagine that it would force all land into use and lead to overdevelopment.’
      • ‘Writing stand-up only heightens my sense that one joke, plus another joke, plus another all adds up to a superficial experience.’
      • ‘Despite some superficial and unfounded criticism about the fact that the manual would be outdated, much of it still retains significant validity.’
      • ‘The insights are superficial too, but it is a light comedy after all.’
      • ‘A 14-minute featurette entitled ‘A Talent for Life: Iris’ gives a fairly superficial look at the making of the film.’
      • ‘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's too light to be a spoof, too superficial to get to the real meat of why rap culture inspires so many privileged peons.’
      • ‘Perhaps the biggest disappointment is his extremely superficial treatment of the historical experience of the now developed countries.’
      • ‘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 general impression was of a scrappy and superficial campaign, facing a coherent and single-minded Government.’
      • ‘It was written from kind of a superficial, Hollywood point of view, essentially filled, I think, with a lot of lies by omission.’
      • ‘Before reading the book I only had a superficial knowledge of his life and career.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Paradoxically, this show is both mind-numbingly sombre and utterly superficial.’
      • ‘The rest is superficial, a blight of the modern obsession with looks and image.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's all very superficial and doesn't really explore any issues it does raise.’
      • ‘The characters themselves are little more than superficial sketches that become increasingly indistinguishable as the movie proceeds.’
      cursory, perfunctory, casual, sketchy, desultory, unconsidered, token, slapdash, slipshod, offhand, inadequate, imperfect, slight
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    4. 1.4Not having or showing any depth of character or understanding.
      ‘perhaps I was a superficial person’
      • ‘What conversation exists is trapped in a level of superficial banality.’
      • ‘Bitty Schram is suitably superficial and irritating as Hallie.’
      • ‘That's why fearful people with weak, inconsistent or superficial values tend to lack influence or any genuine success.’
      • ‘And the characters are so superficial that we hardly care which of these different fates may befall them.’
      • ‘Mullings' portrayal of the duplicitous wife is forced and superficial.’
      • ‘I can't imagine any lady in real life being so easily seduced by so superficial a character.’
      • ‘The mother, of course, is ditzy, frazzled and superficial because there can be no real happiness beyond the city limits.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘However, the better you know Doucet's sources, the more you realize how superficial his version is.’
      • ‘She worries that people think she is superficial, and the deeper Anne cannot withstand that.’
      • ‘A lot of the judgements that designers make about other designers are superficial.’
      • ‘Surely the female species is not so superficial?’
      • ‘I actually found all of the characters tremendously superficial and predictable in a lot of ways.’
      • ‘Actually I think it makes the characters seem whiney and irritating and erm… superficial.’
      • ‘Shreve gives a very superficial rendering of her characters.’
      • ‘Like all single career women, Bridget is a slobbering alcoholic, a superficial ninny posing as a competent professional and intellectual.’
      • ‘On the whole, the cast does a very nice job with their superficial characters and makes them charming, funny, and/or despicable as needed.’
      • ‘In Maelstrom, the main characters are slick, superficial people who deepen emotionally because of the trauma.’
      shallow, surface, on the surface, skin-deep, minimal, artificial
      facile, shallow, glib, flippant, thoughtless, empty-headed, trivial, frivolous, silly, inane, without depth, fatuous
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Late Middle English: from late Latin superficialis, from Latin superficies (see superficies).