- in the philosophy of Nietzsche, an idealized, superior, dominating human being, regarded as the goal of the evolutionary struggle for survival
- a man having apparently superhuman powers
Origin: calque from German übermensch (from über, over plush mensch, person), Nietzsche's term
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- A man with more than human powers.
- An ideal superior man who, according to Nietzsche, forgoes transient pleasure, exercises creative power, lives at a level of experience beyond standards of good and evil, and is the goal of human evolution. Also called overman.
Origin: Translation of German Übermensch : über-, super- + Mensch, man.Word History: Superman, the all-American 20th-century comic-book hero, takes his name from the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's term for the ideal superior man, which is Übermensch in German. Übermensch might also have been translated Overman or Beyondman, but a work by George Bernard Shaw published in 1903 helped to established the English term for Nietzsche's concept as superman. Such a term comes to us through a process called loan translation, or calque formation, whereby the semantic components of a word or phrase in one language are translated literally into their equivalents in another language. German Übermensch is made up of über-, “over, beyond, super-,” and Mensch, “man.” We also find overman and beyondman as calques for the word Übermensch, but they did not take root.
superman - Cultural Definition
An ideal of humanity found in Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche. The Superman, or Overman (the German is Übermensch), is the single goal of all human striving, for which people must be willing to sacrifice all. It is doubtful that Nietzsche thought of the Overman as an individual person.
A seemingly immortal, superhuman comic-strip character created in the late 1930s, who hides his powers beneath the persona of Clark Kent, a mild-mannered newspaper reporter. Only when there is a threat of danger — often to his fellow reporter and secret love, Lois Lane — does Clark transform himself into the caped hero with x-ray vision.
- Superman has been adapted for various radio and television series and a number of highly successful films.