1. Of the highest order, quality, or degree; surpassing or superior to all others.
2. Excessive or exaggerated.
3. Grammar Of, relating to, or being the extreme degree of comparison of an adjective or adverb, as in best or brightest.
1. Something of the highest possible excellence.
2. The highest degree; the acme.
a. The superlative degree.
b. An adjective or adverb expressing the superlative degree, as in brightest, the superlative of the adjective bright, or most brightly, the superlative of the adverb brightly.
[Middle English superlatif, from Old French, from Late Latin superlātīvus, from Latin superlātus, past participle of superferre, to carry over a person or thing, exaggerate : super-, super- + lātus, past participle of ferre, to carry; see telə- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
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.