AskDefine | Define superficial

Dictionary Definition

superficial adj
1 being or affecting or concerned with a surface; not deep or penetrating emotionally or intellectually; "superficial similarities"; "a superficial mind"; "his thinking was superficial and fuzzy"; "superficial knowledge"; "the superficial report didn't give the true picture"; "only superficial differences" [ant: profound]
2 relating to a surface; "superficial measurements"; "the superficial area of the wall"
3 of little substance or significance; "a few superficial editorial changes"; "only trivial objections" [syn: trivial]
4 involving a surface only; "her beauty is only skin-deep"; "superficial bruising"; "a surface wound" [syn: skin-deep, surface(a)]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Shallow, lacking substance.
  2. At face value.


Shallow, lacking substance
At face value


  1. Shallow, lacking substance.

Extensive Definition

Superficial is a general term meaning "regarding the surface", often metaphorically. Both in the literal as in the metaphorical sense the term has often a negative connotation based on the idea that deeper parts are also important to consider.
In human anatomy, superficial describes objects near the body's surface as compared to other objects that may be deep. For example, skin is a superficial structure of the body and muscles are deep to skin. In addition, superficial muscles are those which are just under the skin, often the shape and size of which has an effect on a person's appearance.
Thus, the term is used to describe an observation or analysis that deals only with the most apparent and obvious features of some object, or phenomenon.
A superficial, or alternatively, an "over-simplified" argument is prone to many logical fallacies: including hasty generalization, division, composition and many others.
A person who exhibits a "superficial" comprehension of some or many subjects may be negatively attributed as being shallow, materialistic, and even exhibiting false emotions through an exaggerated affect display. Occasionally they may be pseudointellectual.

See also

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

3-D, airy, amateur, amateurish, ankle-deep, apparent, appearing, arid, asinine, barren, birdbrained, birdwitted, blah, blank, bloodless, catchpenny, characterless, cold, colorless, conventionalized, cortical, cosmetic, critical, cubic, cursory, dabbling, dead, depthless, dilettante, dilettantish, dimensional, dismal, draggy, drearisome, dreary, dry, dryasdust, dull, dusty, effete, elephantine, empty, epidermal, epidermic, etiolated, exomorphic, expeditious, exterior, external, extrinsic, fade, fatuous, featherbrained, festinate, feverish, few, flat, flighty, flimsy, fluffy, flying, foolish, footling, formal, formalist, formalistic, formulary, fourth-dimensional, fribble, fribbling, fringe, frivolous, frothy, furious, futile, general, half-assed, half-baked, half-cocked, hasty, heavy, ho-hum, hollow, hurried, idle, immature, immediate, impersonal, inane, inconsequential, inconsiderable, inexcitable, insignificant, insipid, instant, insubstantial, jejune, knee-deep, last-minute, leaden, legalistic, lifeless, light, little, low, low-spirited, meager, meaningless, miniature, negligible, no great shakes, nominal, not deep, nugacious, nugatory, on the spot, on the surface, open, ostensible, otiose, out, outer, outermost, outlying, outmost, outside, outstanding, outward, outward-facing, pale, pallid, passing, pedantic, pedestrian, perfunctory, peripheral, petty, picayune, picayunish, plodding, pointless, poky, ponderous, prompt, proportional, public, quick, roundabout, sciolistic, seeming, shallow, shallow-headed, shallow-minded, shallow-pated, shallow-rooted, shallow-witted, shoal, short, silly, sketchy, skin-deep, slap-bang, slapdash, slender, slight, slow, small, smattering, snap, solemn, sophomoric, space, space-time, spatial, spatiotemporal, speedy, spherical, spiritless, stereoscopic, sterile, stiff, stodgy, stuffy, stylized, surface, swift, tasteless, tedious, thin, three-dimensional, tiny, trifling, trite, trivial, two-dimensional, uncritical, unimportant, unlively, unprofound, urgent, vacuous, vain, vapid, visible, volatile, volumetric, windy, wooden
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