ul·​te·​ri·​or | \ ˌəl-ˈtir-ē-ər How to pronounce ulterior (audio) \

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

In the first film, peaceful flightless birds battled the invasion of an ingratiating porcine population, led by Leonard (Bill Hader), who had the ulterior motive of stealing their eggs for food. Katie Walsh, chicagotribune.com, "‘Angry Birds Movie 2’ review: Feathered friends, pigs must band together," 12 Aug. 2019 In the first film, peaceful flightless birds battled the invasion of an ingratiating porcine population, led by Leonard (voiced by Bill Hader), who had the ulterior motive of stealing their eggs for food. Katie Walsh, Detroit Free Press, "‘Angry Birds 2’ is chaotic, occasionally thoughtful," 12 Aug. 2019 However, Mazur’s explanation doesn’t account for the offers to pay off the debt from donors such as Carmichael, who believes an ulterior motive may be behind the school district’s letter. Matt Mcnulty, PEOPLE.com, "Penn. School District Ignores Donors' Offers to Pay Student Meal Debt Amid Backlash: Report," 24 July 2019 His parents had an ulterior motive behind their act of generosity, which cleaned out their retirement to the tune of $40,000. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, "Breakthrough Theatre defies death to celebrate 10th anniversary," 17 July 2019 Blomgren's Pelle is the perfect embodiment of an outwardly sweet-tempered True Believer with underlying sinister intent, and his clear attraction to Dani gives him a selfish ulterior motive for welcoming her on their trip. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Midsommar is a slasher film with artsy ambitions that doesn’t quite work," 4 July 2019 Last year, Chief Justice Roberts was willing to ignore evidence of an ulterior motive. Adam Liptak, New York Times, "After 14 Years, Chief Justice Roberts Takes Charge," 27 June 2019 But some privacy experts believe the companies have ulterior motives. Sidney Fussell, The Atlantic, "The Strange Politics of Facial Recognition," 28 June 2019 At the Tiedeman house, Aleksander is asking someone on the phone to figure out Clausen’s ulterior motives. Abbey Maxbauer, refinery29.com, "R29 Binge Club: Netflix's Dark Season 2 Recap," 25 June 2019

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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Last Updated

17 Aug 2019

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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 How to pronounce ulterior (audio) \

Kids Definition of ulterior

: kept hidden usually on purpose ulterior motives

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More from Merriam-Webster on ulterior

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ulterior

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ulterior

Spanish Central: Translation of ulterior

Nglish: Translation of ulterior for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ulterior for Arabic Speakers

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of or relating to the heavens

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