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
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 So, the smoke taint thing, in a way, there may be some ulterior motives for people who are actually trying to kind of fix a supply and demand issue that's going on. Soleil Ho, SFChronicle.com, "How will California wineries recover from wildfires," 5 Oct. 2020 Royal watchers had long suspected that the Queen’s special privileges might be granted for some ulterior motive, but here it was set out in black and white for the first time. David Mcclure, Town & Country, "Does Queen Elizabeth Pay Her Fair Share of Taxes?," 3 Oct. 2020 The Comey who emerges in these pages seems to doubt his aides and his bosses and suspect everyone around him of ulterior motives. Washington Post, "For Comey, time has not healed a major wound," 25 Sep. 2020 Cut to September 2020, when American audiences who’ve lived through more than six months of the COVID-19 pandemic will immediately recognize a member of the 1% with ulterior motives spreading lies. Jacob Oller, chicagotribune.com, "Chicago’s Gillian Flynn wanted to create an American dystopia for ‘Utopia.’ America did her one better.," 25 Sep. 2020 But China's bold moves are likely driven by an ulterior motive—that, as the world's leading producer of green energy tech, China stands to emerge as a global powerhouse in the post-oil world. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "There’s an ulterior motive to China’s carbon neutral pledge: cornering the green tech market," 23 Sep. 2020 People have speculated about ulterior motives in attempting to affect the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. al, "Jesus 2020: Alabama church campaign goes nationwide," 9 Sep. 2020 Secrets and ulterior motives are de rigueur at work, and with no respite from colleagues, gloves come off. Mary Cadden, USA TODAY, "Review: Ruth Ware brings chills with isolated locked door mystery 'One by One'," 9 Sep. 2020 Trump offered federal assistance to the city in August, an act that was curtly rebuffed by the mayor, again suggesting Trump had ulterior motives for offering assistance. Carly Ortiz-lytle, Washington Examiner, "Sheriffs reject Oregon governor's request for help to stop riots, citing liberal leadership," 1 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ulterior

Time Traveler

The first known use of ulterior was in 1646

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Statistics for ulterior

Last Updated

15 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ulterior.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ulterior. Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for ulterior


How to pronounce ulterior (audio)

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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