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superlative

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superlative

A pair of superlatives

Definition:

The form of an adjective or adverb that indicates the most or the least of something.

Superlatives are either marked by the suffix -est or preceded by the word most or least. Not all adjectives and adverbs have superlative forms.

After a superlative, in or of + a noun phrase can be used to indicate what is being compared.

See also:

Exercises and Quizzes:


Examples and Observations:

  • "This is the saddest story I have ever heard."
    (Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier, 1915)


  • "The [New York City] subway is a gift to any connoisseur of superlatives. It has the longest rides of any subway in the world, the biggest stations, the fastest trains, the most track, the most passengers, the most police officers. It also has the filthiest trains, the most bizarre graffiti, the noisiest wheels, the craziest passengers, the wildest crimes."
    (Paul Theroux, "Subterranean Gothic." Granta, 1984)


  • Bart Simpson: This is the worst day of my life.
    Homer Simpson: The worst day of your life so far.
    (The Simpsons Movie, 2007)


  • "In one second, without any previous training or upbringing, he had become the wettest man in Worcestershire."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves, 1930)


  • "I responded in what I thought was the most truthful--or least untruthful--manner, by saying no."
    (James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, explaing why he told Congress in March 2013 that the National Security Agency doesn't intentionally collect data on millions of Americans)


  • "To the man who loves art for its own sake, it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived."
    (Arthur Conan Doyle)


  • "It is turning out to be the most beautiful, most quiet, largest, most generous, sky-vaulted summer I've ever seen or known--inordinately blue, with greener leaves and taller trees than I can remember, and the sound of the lawnmowers all over this valley is a sound I could hum to forever."
    (Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist. Simon & Schuster, 2009)


  • "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind."
    (William James)


  • "Speakers of vernacular dialects often use double comparatives and superlatives such as more higher and most fastest. Although such constructions may seem redundant or even illogical, in reality both standard and nonstandard varieties of all languages are replete with such constructions. In English the redundant comparative dates back to the 1500s. Prior to this, in Old and Middle English, suffixes, rather than a preceding more or most, almost always marked the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs, regardless of word length. In the Early Modern English period . . . [d]ouble markings were commonly used to indicate special emphasis, and they do not appear to have been socially disfavored."
    ("comparative," The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., 2000)


  • Unusual Superlatives
    "Make sure your gathering is the meatiest, cheesiest, feastiest ever with our platters, cold subs, salads, snacks, and desserts."
    (Firehouse Subs, Savannah, Georgia)

    "Another of Springfield’s belovedest citizens has been murdered."
    (Kent Brockman in The Simpsons)
Pronunciation: soo-PUR-luh-tiv
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