The Meaning of Superfluous: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of superfluous? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word superfluous, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word superfluous mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as other dictionaries like American Heritage and Collins English dictionary, the word superfluous is an adjective that means unnecessary, not needed, or exceeding what is necessary or sufficient. In an archaic or obsolete sense, the word superfluous meant extravagant or marked by wastefulness. The pronunciation of superfluous is su-per-flu-wis.

The word superfluous also exists in many different languages and can be used to describe things that are unnecessary. You may notice that some of these words look very similar to the word superfluous, or are cognates for the word superfluous. This is because these words have the same root or origin. Words of the same origin often look and sound similar to one another. This list of translations for the word superfluous is provided by Word Sense

  •  Russian: ли́шний‎, изли́шний‎
  •  Spanish: superfluo‎ (masc.)
  •  Nynorsk: overflødig‎
  •  Japanese: 冗長‎
  •  Italian: superfluo‎
  •  German: überflüssig‎
  •  Catalan: superflu‎
  •  Galician: superfluo‎
  •  Latin: supervacuus‎, superfluus‎, supervacāneus‎, superforāneus‎
  •  Armenian: ավելորդ‎
  •  Dutch: overtollig‎, overdadig‎, overvloedig‎
  •  Hungarian: felesleges‎
  •  Czech: zbytečný‎ (masc.), nadbytečný‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: ylenpalttinen‎, tarpeeton‎, ylitsevuotavainen‎, liiallinen‎
  •  Greek: περιττός‎ (masc.)
  •  Cyrillic: су̏вӣшан‎ (masc.)
  •  Romanian: superfluu‎ (masc.) (n), superfluă‎ (fem.), de prisos‎
  •  Roman: sȕvīšan‎ (masc.)
  •  Irish: iomarcach‎
  •  Danish: overflødig‎
  •  Asturian: superfluu‎
  •  Bokmål: overflødig‎
  •  Polish: niepotrzebny‎ (masc.), zbyteczny‎ (masc.), nadmierny‎ (masc.)
  •  Mandarin: 多餘‎, 多余‎ (duōyú)
  •  Portuguese: supérfluo‎ (masc.)
  •  Ido: superflua‎
  •  French: superflu‎
  •  Swedish: överflödig‎

What is the origin of the word superfluous?

According to Etymonline, the word superfluous has been used as an adjective since the early 15th century. Earlier in the late 14th century, this word was the Middle English superflue. This comes from the Old French superflueux and Latin superfluus meaning unnecessary, and literally overflowing or running over. This comes from the Latin superfluere, a verb meaning to overflow. This is from the prefix super meaning over and the Latin fluere meaning to flow. One can add the suffixes ly, ness, and ity to make the related words superfluously (adv.), superfluousness (n.) and superfluity (n.)

How can the word superfluous be used in a sentence?

The word superfluous can be used in many different ways in American English and British English. Below are many examples of superfluous. 

The appendix and wisdom teeth are both superfluous organs in the body that can quickly turn into deadly vestiges. 

The set design included many superfluous objects and the sound effects included many superfluous instruments. The director was frustrated that these things did not enhance the storyline or dialogue sequences, but rather detracted from them. 

The curator felt it was a principle of museums that they have extra copies of information on the art, but the employees noticed that they never got taken. He also believed that art rests in the balance of perfect tension between not enough and superfluous. 

The professor at Princeton University found that superfluous comments waste time, but the patience of participants was wearing thin when there was no spare room to ask questions on the lecture. 

The restaurant-goers were happy that they received extra ribs and surplus cheese, but they felt it was a tad superfluous since the portions were already gigantic. 

The senseless violence and use of weapons may have been for war purposes, but the citizens felt that was an excuse for superfluous suffering. The local governments did nothing to help.

So far parasites were able to shed their superfluous genes and acquire new ones from their host animal with their current biology.

The hosts of the party felt that balloons and gifts were Superfluous. They already had enough possessions, and did not need anything else to try to shove into their dresser. 

Publishers at Random house and Harpercollins Publishers were frustrated with the superfluous aspects of the narrative that the author turned in. It was a noteworthy hybrid of multiple genres, but the plot did not make any sense, the only thing that they enjoyed were the illustrations. 

Using the proper names of people in daily usage could be considered Superfluous if you have nicknames for all of your friends. 

Mother felt that it was Superfluous for the child to go out in a full rain suit and umbrella when it was only spitting rain, but she decided to put such a virtual halt to their argument and let the child wear what she wanted. 

The superfluous notes and coupons were a total gimmick to try to get people to sign up for the dance. 

Teacher wrote the student a citation for making an inappropriate comment For using specific signs in sign language to make an inappropriate image. However, this citation was superfluous because the student had already been sentenced to detention every day that week.

What are synonyms and antonyms for superfluous?

There are many different words that have the same meaning as the word superfluous. These are known as synonyms. Synonyms are very useful to know if you are looking to expand your vocabulary or avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word superfluous is provided by Thesaurus

  •  dispensable
  •  supererogatory
  •  gratuitous
  •  profuse
  •  in excess
  •  remaining
  •  extreme
  •  extra
  •  lavish
  •  uncalled-for
  •  de trop
  •  abounding
  •  superabundant
  •  spare
  •  unnecessary
  •  excess
  •  expendable
  •  residuary
  •  surplus
  •  excessive
  •  useless
  •  leftover
  •  unrequired
  •  unwanted
  •  overflowing
  •  overmuch
  •  pleonastic
  •  redundant
  •  inessential
  •  unneeded
  •  inordinate
  •  supernumerary
  •  exorbitant
  •  extravagant
  •  nonessential
  •  needless
  •  unasked
  •  superfluent

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word superfluous. These opposite words words are known as antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you want to expand upon your knowledge of the English language or grammar. This list of antonyms for the word superfluous is also provided by Thesaurus

  •  prime
  •  exigent
  •  bottom-line
  •  crucial
  •  significant
  •  unavoidable
  •  paramount
  •  vital
  •  urgent
  •  all-important
  •  chief
  •  indispensable
  •  de rigueur
  •  fundamental
  •  name of game
  •  mandatory
  •  required
  •  prerequisite
  •  obligatory
  •  specified
  •  incumbent on
  •  wanted
  •  decisive
  •  imperative
  •  needful
  •  needed
  •  momentous
  •  binding
  •  compulsory
  •  basic
  •  requisite
  •  expedient
  •  cardinal
  •  principal
  •  pressing
  •  quintessential
  •  elementary
  •  necessary
  •  essential
  •  compelling

Overall, the word superfluous (adj. c15) means not having a useful purpose. Something that is superfluous is considered supernumerary ornamentation. This could include excess weight, a superfluous injury, unnecessary letter, pointless remark, unnecessary suffering, and more. This word is of Indo-European roots.

Sources:

  1. superfluous | Origin and meaning of superfluous | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  2. superfluous: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  3. SUPERFLUOUS Synonyms: 41 Synonyms & Antonyms for SUPERFLUOUS | Thesaurus 
  4. NECESSARY Synonyms: 77 Synonyms & Antonyms for NECESSARY | Thesaurus 
  5. Superfluous | Definition of Superfluous | Merriam-Webster