ul·te·ri·or | \ˌəl-ˈtir-ē-ər \

Definition of ulterior 

1 : going beyond what is openly said or shown and especially what is proper ulterior motives

2a : further, future

b : more distant

c : situated on the farther side

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Other Words from ulterior

ulteriorly adverb

Did You Know?

Although now usually hitched to the front of the noun "motive" to refer to a hidden need or desire that inspires action, "ulterior" began its career as an adjective in the mid-17th century describing something occurring at a subsequent time. By the early 18th century it was being used to mean both "more distant" (literally and figuratively) and "situated on the farther side." The "hidden" sense with which we're most familiar today followed quickly after those, with the word modifying nouns like "purpose," "design," and "consequence." "Ulterior" comes directly from the Latin word for "farther" or "further," itself assumed to be the comparative form of ulter, meaning "situated beyond."

Examples of ulterior in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

He is widely suspected of having an ulterior motive. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?," 8 July 2018 The problem with this latest Ronaldo rumour, as with all rumours linking him to United over the years, is that there may still be ulterior motives at play. SI.com, "Cristiano Ronaldo 'Determined to Leave' Real Madrid as Man Utd Speculation Builds Again," 25 June 2018 Causing difficulties on Frank’s side are Leslie (Collette), his patient landlady who may have an ulterior interest in her tenant, and Frank’s aging mother, Marianne (Blythe Danner). Kenneth Turan, Detroit Free Press, "Review: ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ makes some sweet music," 29 June 2018 Skeptics say colleges could have an ulterior motive for dropping test requirements: to raise or solidify their place in national rankings. Nick Anderson, chicagotribune.com, "University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement," 14 June 2018 Skeptics say colleges could have an ulterior motive for dropping test requirements: to raise or solidify their place in national rankings. Nick Anderson, Washington Post, "A shake-up in elite admissions: U-Chicago drops SAT/ACT testing requirement," 14 June 2018 This is part of the all-women’s board’s forward-thinking agenda to reach out to the up-and-coming wave of philanthropists… although perhaps some playful ulterior motives were at hand. Olivia Martin, Town & Country, "The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering and Saks Fifth Avenue Host MSK's 11th Annual Spring Ball," 1 June 2018 From that point on, her discipleship had some ulterior motives. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "When You Find Out Your Parents Met in a Cult," 24 May 2018 And the latest nominal momentary leader of the resistance is James B. Comey who, like Daniels, may have an ulterior motive or two here. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "James Comey, Stormy Daniels and the flawed vessels commandeering the Trump resistance," 19 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ulterior.' 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 ulterior

1646, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for ulterior

Latin, farther, further, comparative of *ulter situated beyond, from uls beyond; akin to Latin ollus, ille, that one, Old Irish indoll beyond

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Phrases Related to ulterior

ulterior motive

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Time Traveler for ulterior

The first known use of ulterior was in 1646

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More Definitions for ulterior



English Language Learners Definition of ulterior

: kept hidden in order to get a particular result


ul·te·ri·or | \ˌəl-ˈtir-ē-ər \

Kids Definition of ulterior

: kept hidden usually on purpose ulterior motives

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Comments on ulterior

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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