sub·​ter·​ra·​nean | \ˌsəb-tə-ˈrā-nē-ən, -nyən\
variants: or less commonly subterraneous \ ˌsəb-​tə-​ˈrā-​nē-​əs , -​nyəs \

Definition of subterranean 

1 : being, lying, or operating under the surface of the earth

2 : existing or working in secret : hidden a subterranean network of criminals

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from subterranean

subterraneanly or less commonly subterraneously adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for subterranean


belowground, subsurface, underground


aboveground, surface

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Go Underground With Subterranean

A tunnel is a subterranean road or pathway, and a subway is a subterranean railway. The subterranean vaults at Fort Knox hold billions of dollars of gold reserves. Subterranean reservoirs called aquifers are tapped for water; in places where the pressure on the subterranean water is great enough, a hole drilled in the ground will bring it bubbling to the surface.

Examples of subterranean in a Sentence

a subterranean bunker that supposedly could withstand even an atomic blast

Recent Examples on the Web

Before 1959, jazz was widely considered subterranean, nocturnal music favored by hipsters, intellectuals and outcasts. Marc Myers, WSJ, "A Great Day in Harlem, Revisited," 2 Nov. 2018 To access the Skyspace, visitors walk through a glowing subterranean tunnel whose door was built to perfectly align to Biberkopf peak. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "James Turrell’s new Skyspace is nestled into the Austrian mountains," 1 Oct. 2018 Their cupidity quickly becomes an existential threat to all of the people and things that define the city, condemning them to a subterranean life at the bottom of the void. Laura Hudson, The Verge, "Donut County is a game about swallowing Los Angeles and realizing you’re an asshole," 1 Sep. 2018 Now, there is drilling and tapping of subterranean petroleum lakes in ways they never could have dreamed before. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "What happened to coal," 21 Aug. 2018 Researchers thought that subterranean water could have been rising to the surface and causing the dark streaks. Chelsea Gohd,, "Wow! This Fresh Meteoroid Impact on Mars Triggered a Dusty Avalanche," 19 June 2018 Slowly Shirley This subterranean Art Deco cocktail bar is hidden beneath The Happiest Hour, which is more chaotic. Alex Van Buren, Condé Nast Traveler, "21 Best Bars in New York City," 1 Mar. 2018 While the novel maps Shirley’s obsessive searching within a gray urban grid, its real journey is subterranean, taking the form of peregrinations through her jumbled psyche. New York Times, "Her Lover May Not Exist, but Her Doubts About the Patriarchy Are Real," 6 July 2018 The sale is further complicated because the building is connected to critical subterranean Metro infrastructure. Martine Powers, Washington Post, "Metro seeks buyer for downtown D.C. headquarters," 12 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subterranean.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of subterranean

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subterranean

Latin subterraneus, from sub- + terra earth — more at thirst

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about subterranean

Share subterranean

Statistics for subterranean

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for subterranean

The first known use of subterranean was in 1603

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for subterranean



English Language Learners Definition of subterranean

: located or living under the surface of the ground

: existing or working in secret


sub·​ter·​ra·​nean | \ˌsəb-tə-ˈrā-nē-ən, -nyən\

Kids Definition of subterranean

: being, lying, or operating under the surface of the earth a subterranean lake

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on subterranean

What made you want to look up subterranean? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a private place of worship

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!