1. Of, affecting, or being on or near the surface: a superficial wound.
2. Concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; shallow: wrote him off as superficial.
3. Apparent rather than actual or substantial: a superficial resemblance between the two films.
4. Not extensive or important; minor or insignificant: made only a few superficial changes in the manuscript.
[Middle English, from Old French superficiel, from Latin superficiālis, from superficiēs, surface; see SUPERFICIES.]
su′per·fi′ci·ali·ty (-fĭsh′ē-ălĭ-tē), su′per·ficial·ness (-fĭshəl-nĭs) n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.