What is the difference in meaning between excess, excessive, surplus and superfluous as adjectives?

1 Answer 1


Excess means "more than is necessary," whereas excessive means "too much."

Surplus means the excess, that of which is more than is necessary. This is typically used in economics.

Superfluous also means in excess of what is required or sufficient, just a fancier word.

  • 2
    Something that isn't required at all can also be described as superfluous. Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 12:07
  • A priest I once knew told me, when discussing the vow of celibacy, that for some of his colleagues, it was 'superfluous'. Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 14:33

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