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[suh-pur-luh-tiv, soo-] /səˈpɜr lə tɪv, sʊ-/
of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme:
superlative wisdom.
Grammar. of, relating to, or noting the highest degree of the comparison of adjectives and adverbs, as smallest, best, and most carefully, the superlative forms of small, good, and carefully.
Compare comparative (def 4), positive (def 20).
being more than is proper or normal; exaggerated in language or style.
a superlative person or thing.
the utmost degree; acme.
  1. the superlative degree.
  2. a form in the superlative.
1350-1400; Middle English < Late Latin superlātīvus, equivalent to Latin superlāt(us) hyperbolical (super- super- + -lātus, suppletive past participle of ferre to bear1) + -īvus -ive; replacing Middle English superlatif < Old French < Late Latin, as above
Related forms
superlatively, adverb
superlativeness, noun
unsuperlative, adjective
unsuperlatively, adverb
unsuperlativeness, noun
1. surpassing, excellent, magnificent, preeminent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for superlatives
  • Charting the world's superlatives is painstaking work.
  • Another of his characteristics,-no use of superlatives.
  • The list of superlatives you can apply to this car is as long as its wheelbase.
  • So personally, in fact, that tech types are lost for superlatives.
  • When speaking about their secondary, they used nothing less than superlatives.
  • As a tech reviewer, my pulse races whenever a product is introduced with superlatives.
  • He was an athlete who exhausted our supply of superlatives, a magician whose sleight of hand never failed to amaze.
  • It's a huge, gracious, raucous city pumped full of superlatives.
  • But the structural reason for reserving these superlatives until so late in a piece becomes clear from the last example.
  • Instead, his usual mode of speech is fuelled by high-octane superlatives.
British Dictionary definitions for superlatives


of outstanding quality, degree, etc; supreme
(grammar) denoting the form of an adjective or adverb that expresses the highest or a very high degree of quality. In English the superlative degree is usually marked by the suffix -est or the word most, as in loudest or most loudly Compare positive (sense 10), comparative (sense 3)
(of language or style) excessive; exaggerated
a thing that excels all others or is of the highest quality
(grammar) the superlative form of an adjective
the highest degree; peak
Derived Forms
superlatively, adverb
superlativeness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French superlatif, via Late Latin from Latin superlātus extravagant, from superferre to carry beyond, from super- + ferre to bear
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for superlatives



late 14c., from Old French superlatif (13c.), from Late Latin superlativus "exaggerated, superlative," from Latin superlatus "exaggerated" (used as past participle of superferre "carry over or beyond"), from super "beyond" (see super-) + lat- "carry," from *tlat-, past participle stem of tollere "to take away" (see extol). The noun is attested from 1520s, originally in the grammatical sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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superlatives in Culture

superlative definition

The form of an adjective indicating the greatest degree of the quality that the adjective describes. Best is the superlative form of good; fastest is the superlative form of fast; most charming is the superlative form of charming. The usual superlative takes the ending -est. (Compare comparative.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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