sub·​ter·​ra·​nean | \ ˌsəb-tə-ˈrā-nē-ən How to pronounce subterranean (audio) , -nyən\
variants: or less commonly subterraneous \ ˌsəb-​tə-​ˈrā-​nē-​əs How to pronounce subterraneous (audio) , -​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

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Other Words from subterranean

subterraneanly or less commonly subterraneously adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for subterranean


belowground, subsurface, underground


aboveground, surface

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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

Further east, a group of people sat with their belongings on a subterranean sidewalk. Elvia Malagon,, "Fence goes up at 'Triangle' and homeless move - to another part of Lower Wacker Drive," 15 June 2018 Beneath your feet, the floor vibrates with the reliable oomph, oomph of a subterranean base beat. Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek, "America’s Best and Drunkest," 11 Sep. 2014 Debussy’s themes are subterranean where Wagner’s are musical elbows-in-the-ribs (This is the hero’s theme! Love! Death!). Lloyd Schwartz, WSJ, "‘Debussy’ Review: An Ear for Beauty," 18 Oct. 2018 In Nashville, Tennessee, a development called Brentwood plans to include a subterranean garage to take advantage of improvements in autonomous parking technology to use less space and free up valuable above-ground real estate. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Why valet parking is the future of smarter urban transit," 6 Aug. 2018 Ground unmanned vehicle operation is tough enough, with vertical challenges and broken terrain, but the subterranean realm adds an entirely new layer--particularly the difficulty in transmitting data underground. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Military Wants Drones To Fly Through Enemy Caves and Map Them," 4 Oct. 2018 Yesterday, Equipment held its first full ready-to-wear presentation at Constantin Brancusi’s storied sculpture studio, a subterranean oasis of sorts that’s tucked away from the bustling crowds outside the nearby Pompidou Center. Chioma Nnadi, Vogue, "Equipment Goes Beyond the Basic With Its First Full Ready-to-Wear Collection," 29 Sep. 2018 Here’s how Capy describes it: Test your adventurer mettle against The Isle’s procedural subterranean labyrinths. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Long-awaited survival game Below is out next week," 6 Dec. 2018 Centuries of Roman history lie buried in the darkness in layers stretching down to 8.5 meters (27.89 feet) below the modern floor of the cathedral, and the subterranean archaeological sites are like a honeycomb through the city’s Caelian Hill. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Archaeologists map centuries of history beneath world’s oldest cathedral," 30 Nov. 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.

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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

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Statistics for subterranean

Last Updated

20 May 2019

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Time Traveler for subterranean

The first known use of subterranean was in 1603

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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 How to pronounce subterranean (audio) , -nyən\

Kids Definition of subterranean

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

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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 strong desire or propensity

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