Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of, affecting, or being on or near the surface.
  • adjective Concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; shallow.
  • adjective Apparent rather than actual or substantial.
  • adjective Not extensive or important; minor or insignificant.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Lying in or on, or pertaining to, the superficies or surface; not penetrating below the surface, literally or figuratively; being only on the surface; not reaching to the interior or essence; shallow: as, a superficial color; a superficial resemblance.
  • Of persons or their mental states or acts, comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; not deep or profound; not thorough.
  • In anatomy, not deep-seated or profound; lying on the surface of some part, or near but not on the surface of the whole body; subcutaneous; cutaneous: specifically said of various tissues and structures.
  • Synonyms External, exterior, outer.
  • Slight, smattering, shallow.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Of or pertaining to the superficies, or surface; lying on the surface; shallow; not deep.
  • adjective Reaching or comprehending only what is obvious or apparent; not deep or profound; shallow; -- said especially in respect to study, learning, and the like.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Shallow, lacking substance.
  • adjective At face value.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to the surface.
  • adjective Being near the surface.
  • adjective rare Two-dimensional; drawn on a flat surface.
  • noun chiefly in plural A surface detail.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective of, affecting, or being on or near the surface
  • adjective concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; not deep or penetrating emotionally or intellectually
  • adjective of little substance or significance

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French superficiel, from Latin superficiālis, from superficiēs, surface; see superficies.]

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