Definition of superlative in US English:



  • 1Of the highest quality or degree.

    ‘a superlative piece of skill’
    • ‘Not a superlative film but a perfectly solid one and one that is going to be rolling out in limited release quite soon.’
    • ‘Instead, it wants to delve into the mindset of someone who earns obscene amounts of money for having a superlative skill, and how such a superman complex can corrupt even the most hardworking, dedicated individual.’
    • ‘This new two-disc release is not to be missed: it's a superlative treatment of one of Hollywood's greatest classics.’
    • ‘There are incredible details in his mazurkas, and he has found how to make them doubly interesting by playing them with the utmost degree of gentleness, with a superlative softness.’
    • ‘The Mosan workshops were notable for their ivories, superlative champlevé enamel, often with sophisticated typological iconography, and cast and embossed metalwork.’
    • ‘Invariably, when the best performers are asked what they were thinking about when they turned in a superlative performance, their answer is ‘nothing.’’
    • ‘He was a superlative draughtsman and his work has appealed greatly to other outstanding draughtsmen, such as Hockney and Picasso.’
    • ‘It also makes one wonder how many superlative pieces of literature might be lurking out there, forgotten.’
    • ‘His virtue, physical prowess, and most importantly his desire to acquire superlative objects from Europe and elsewhere, are manifested in this magnificent display of arms and armour.’
    • ‘The superlative cast is in top form in this season.’
    • ‘All kidding aside, here's another fine CD from a flutist who has given us superlative recordings of music from the Baroque and Classical eras.’
    • ‘The 1950s recordings have been in limbo: boasting neither modern sound nor superlative sentimental value, they have not appeared on CD until recently.’
    • ‘Nowadays, even the cheapest laser printers offer superlative image quality in both text and graphics.’
    • ‘This is a fine motion picture with a couple of superlative performances.’
    • ‘And to say all this is not yet to comment on the superlative choreography and dancing.’
    • ‘The superlative handling seems at odds with the ride height, which is greater than your average saloon, adding to the unfashionable ‘upright’ feel of the package as a whole.’
    • ‘You get a superlative audio and video presentation, and an excellent collection of bonus material.’
    • ‘At that time it was a contemporary drama; now it is a period piece, and the transition is managed with superlative intelligence.’
    • ‘He was supposed to be recognized for his superlative skill with flight combat and drafted immediately into the test pilot corps.’
    • ‘All the obvious categories by means of which the Dutch school distinguished itself are on display here, invariably in the form of superlative examples, and often in the form of nicely contrasted offerings to boot.’
    excellent, magnificent, wonderful, glorious, marvellous, brilliant, supreme, consummate, outstanding, prodigious, dazzling, remarkable, formidable, fine, choice, sterling, first-rate, first-class, of the first water, of the first order, of the highest order, premier, prime, unsurpassed, unequalled, unparalleled, unrivalled, unbeatable, peerless, matchless, singular, unique, transcendent, best, greatest, worthiest, pre-eminent, perfect, faultless, flawless
    View synonyms
  • 2Grammar
    (of an adjective or adverb) expressing the highest or a very high degree of a quality (e.g. bravest, most fiercely).

    Contrasted with positive and comparative
    • ‘The result was a phenomenal success and classical music critics around the world competed with each other to invent ever-new terms of superlative praise.’


  • 1Grammar
    A superlative adjective or adverb.

    • ‘This use of superlatives is poor journalism, period.’
    • ‘Joseph's resume is also peppered with superlatives.’
    1. 1.1the superlative The highest degree of comparison.
      • ‘It does so most often in the form of the comparative and the superlative of bad: worse and worst.’
  • 2usually superlativesAn exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise.

    ‘the critics ran out of superlatives to describe him’
    • ‘And the only one who saw through the hyperbole and the meaningless superlatives was my Aunt Petunia, and she was half-deaf.’
    • ‘After writing nearly 100 DVD reviews, one begins to run out of superlatives to describe the better discs which pass before the eyes and ears.’
    • ‘When I saw it first last year, I promised to uncork a jeroboam of superlatives for its UK release.’
    • ‘After a lull in the middle, and just as the audiences attention starts to fade, the film shifts straight from neutral and into fifth launching a visual assault of such kinetic action that mere superlatives don't do it justice.’
    • ‘While the rest of the world scoured their thesauruses for superlatives, the band themselves were concentrating.’
    • ‘I can heap superlatives attempting to describe the merits of this film.’
    • ‘He also got all the superlatives, where I got ‘let's move on, that'll do’.’
    • ‘Hell, I've spent the last two months hoping time would temper the superlatives I knew would pepper this review.’
    • ‘I could hurl more superlatives at the band, but really, they don't need it.’
    • ‘Powerful, well-acted films are easy to review, with no end of superlatives to string together to laud the acting, directorial genius, and so forth.’
    • ‘A wonderful family home where no superlatives can really do justice to what awaits.’
    • ‘In fact, it is easy to run out of superlatives for a gig as good as this and I defy anyone to emerge disappointed by what they have seen and heard - these guys are in danger of setting themselves some impossibly high standards.’
    • ‘It becomes hard to make out the real men through the billowing superlatives.’
    • ‘I feel woefully inadequate to even review their programme because they left me speechless and with only the ability to utter superlatives.’
    • ‘The band has struck gold with this technique and, though the superlatives are already flying left and right in this feature, has come up with the best produced album of the year.’
    • ‘So many superlatives have already been applied to this tour-de force of a one-man show that it is hard to add anything new.’
    • ‘The time and care was taken, and the result is this film I can't seem to find enough superlatives to describe.’
    • ‘The festival program notes for this film are dripping with superlatives, which should always make you suspicious.’
    • ‘This east European touring group has built a reputation that eats up superlatives.’
    • ‘No slide shows, no superlatives in the press release, and only the briefest of presentations.’
  • 3Something or someone embodying excellence.

    ‘chili has become the superlative among spices’


Late Middle English: from Old French superlatif, -ive, from late Latin superlativus, from Latin superlatus ‘carried beyond’, past participle of superferre.