1. the outer face, outside, or exterior boundary of a thing; outermost or uppermost layer or area.
  2. any face of a body or thing: the six surfaces of a cube.
  3. extent or area of outer face; superficial area.
  4. the outward appearance, especially as distinguished from the inner nature: to look below the surface of a matter.
  5. Geometry. any figure having only two dimensions; part or all of the boundary of a solid.
  6. land or sea transportation, rather than air, underground, or undersea transportation.
  7. Aeronautics. an airfoil.


  1. of, on, or pertaining to the surface; external.
  2. apparent rather than real; superficial: to be guilty of surface judgments.
  3. of, relating to, or via land or sea: surface mail.
  4. Linguistics. belonging to a late stage in the transformational derivation of a sentence; belonging to the surface structure.

verb (used with object), sur·faced, sur·fac·ing.

  1. to finish the surface of; give a particular kind of surface to; make even or smooth.
  2. to bring to the surface; cause to appear openly: Depth charges surfaced the sub. So far we’ve surfaced no applicants.

verb (used without object), sur·faced, sur·fac·ing.

  1. to rise to the surface: The submarine surfaced after four days.
  2. to work on or at the surface.


    1. the exterior face of an object or one such face
    2. (as modifier)surface gloss
    1. the area or size of such a face
    2. (as modifier)surface measurements
  1. material resembling such a face, with length and width but without depth
    1. the superficial appearance as opposed to the real nature
    2. (as modifier)a surface resemblance
  2. geometry
    1. the complete boundary of a solid figure
    2. a continuous two-dimensional configuration
    1. the uppermost level of the land or sea
    2. (as modifier)surface transportation
  3. come to the surface to emerge; become apparent
  4. on the surface to all appearances


  1. to rise or cause to rise to or as if to the surface (of water, etc)
  2. (tr) to treat the surface of, as by polishing, smoothing, etc
  3. (tr) to furnish with a surface
  4. (intr) mining
    1. to work at or near the ground surface
    2. to wash surface ore deposits
  5. (intr) to become apparent; emerge
  6. (intr) informal
    1. to wake up
    2. to get up

n.1610s, from French surface “outermost boundary of anything, outside part” (16c.), from Old French sur- “above” (see sur-) + face (see face (n.)). Patterned on Latin superficies “surface” (see superficial). v.“come to the surface,” 1898, from surface (n.). Earlier it meant “bring to the surface” (1885), and “to give something a polished surface” (1778). Related: Surfaced; surfacing. n.

  1. The outer or topmost part of a solid structure.

see on the surface; scratch the surface.

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