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Superimposed vs. Superpose: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 18, 2023
"Superimposed" is the act of placing or layering one thing over another, while "superpose" is the verb form, meaning to place one thing on top of another.

Key Differences

Both superimposed and superpose concern the action of placing one item over another, generally so that both are still evident. Superimposed often describes the state or result of this action, suggesting that one item has already been placed on top of another. For instance, one might talk about an image that has been superimposed on a background. In contrast, superpose is the action or process itself, used to denote the act of positioning one thing atop another.
In the realm of photography or graphics, superimposed images are ones where two or more images are layered over each other, typically with a degree of transparency to allow elements of each to show through. On the other hand, to superpose is to carry out this layering action, perhaps by placing one photo on top of another or overlaying graphics on an image.
Superimposed can often be used in more metaphorical or abstract contexts. For instance, one might say that a particular emotion is superimposed on a person's usual demeanor. In this sense, it denotes a temporary state or overlay. Conversely, superpose remains more action-oriented, often reserved for more literal or physical applications.
Grammatically, the distinction is also evident. Superimposed is typically an adjective or the past tense of the verb "superimpose." It describes a state or a completed action. Superpose, on the other hand, is primarily a verb, indicating an ongoing or future action. Thus, while one might superpose two sheets of paper, once done, they are then superimposed.
To sum it up, while both superimposed and superpose deal with the overlay of items, the former often denotes a state or result, and the latter refers to the action or process itself.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech

Adjective, Past tense verb


Result or state
Action or process

Contextual Usage

Layered images, temporary states
Act of layering or positioning


Often indicates a completed action
Indicates ongoing or future action

Abstract Use

Can be used metaphorically
Typically more literal

Superimposed and Superpose Definitions


Overlaying to produce a combined effect.
Superimposed melodies create a rich harmonic texture.


Overlay objects to produce a joint effect.
The artist chose to superpose various colors.


Combined or overlaid in a way that retains separate elements.
The two maps were superimposed to show the differences.


Set in direct juxtaposition or overlap.
The technician will superpose the x-rays for comparison.


Placed or layered over something else.
The logo was superimposed over the image.


To place on top or over something else.
I'll superpose the graphic on the photograph.


Added as an extra layer or element.
His feelings of guilt were superimposed on his existing stress.


Position one thing atop another.
She decided to superpose the images for a combined effect.


Positioned on top of another thing.
The text was superimposed on the background.


To set or place (one thing) over or above something else.


To lay or place (something) on or over something else.


(Mathematics) To place (one geometric figure) over another so that all like parts coincide.


To add as a distinct feature, element, or quality
Superimposed her own interpretation when she retold the story.


(transitive) To place one object on top of another.


Simple past tense and past participle of superimpose


To place (one geometric figure) on top of another in such a way that all common parts coincide.


Positioned on or above something else, especially in layers; superposed
A polygon was superimposed on the inferred fault network.


To lay upon, as one kind of rock on another.


(geology) layered or stratified


To lay (a figure) upon another in such a manner that all the parts of the one coincide with the parts of the other; as, to superpose one plane figure on another.


Added or imposed without integration;
The superimposed symbolism lacked validity
Superimposed periodic variation


Place (one geometric figure) upon another so that their perimeters coincide


Placed on or over something else;
An overlying image


Place on top of;
Can you superimpose the two images?


With one layer on top of another;
Superimposed rocks


Combine by placing one above the other.
Superpose the fabrics to see how they look together.


Is "superimposed" primarily an adjective or verb?

It can be both, but is often used as an adjective or as the past tense of "superimpose."

How is "superpose" typically used in a sentence?

As a verb, e.g., "I will superpose the images."

Is "superpose" more action-oriented?

Yes, it's typically about the act of overlaying.

Can "superimposed" describe a completed action?

Yes, as in "The images were already superimposed."

In photography, what does "superimposed" mean?

It means two or more images have been layered over each other.

What does "superimposed" generally imply?

It implies something has been placed or layered over another.

Can "superimposed" be used metaphorically?

Yes, like when emotions overlay a usual demeanor.

If I want to talk about a future overlay action, which term should I use?

You should use "superpose."

What action does "superpose" refer to?

It refers to the act of placing one thing on top of another.

Is "superpose" more literal in its application?

Generally, yes, it's often used in a more literal or physical context.

Can "superimposed" describe combined elements?

Yes, like when two maps are overlaid to show differences.

How is "superpose" typically conjugated?

Like "superpose, superposing, superposed."

What is the focus of "superpose"?

The focus is on the action or process of placing one thing over another.

If I'm actively layering graphics on an image, which word should I use?

You'd use "superpose."

Can "superpose" describe the process of layering colors?

Yes, like in certain art techniques.

Are both terms related to overlaying?

Yes, both deal with the concept of overlaying items.

Can "superimposed" be used in music?

Yes, like when melodies are layered for a harmonic texture.

Can "superimposed" indicate a temporary state?

Yes, it can denote a temporary overlay or condition.

Which term indicates a state after the overlaying action is complete?


Are "superimposed" and "superpose" interchangeable?

Not always, as they have different focuses; one on the result and the other on the action.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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