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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Lovelady’s video statement, posted Thursday on the festival’s Facebook page, intimated that the difference of opinion among festival fans -- and the willingness of some to accuse organizers of ulterior motives -- had been a source of stress. al, "Gulf Coast Jam promises ‘right decision’ on plans," 10 July 2020 Officials in different parts of the US hinted that the violence may have been instigated by outside groups who infiltrated the protests with an ulterior motive. Christina Maxouris, CNN, "A Florida sheriff said he will deputize lawful gun owners if protests turn violent," 2 July 2020 But while Carmichael seems kind and friendly, his ulterior motives may be the darkest this show has seen yet. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "What you need to know before watching Hanna season 2," 1 July 2020 The letter suggests the applicants posed as immigrants but may have ulterior motives for entering the country. Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, "Jordan seeks investigation into Chinese Communist use of visa program to get members into US," 15 June 2020 On the quiet, though, our heroes have an ulterior motive. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Spike Lee Wraps History in Adventure in “Da 5 Bloods”," 12 June 2020 Does the cop snooping around the house have ulterior motives here? Kaitlin Reilly, refinery29.com, "Camila Mendes Inherits More Than Cold Hard Cash In New Netflix Thriller," 14 Apr. 2020 His judgment has not been clouded by his optimism and ulterior motives. Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati.com, "Doc's Morning Line: We must be positive without being foolish during coronavirus pandemic," 25 Mar. 2020 Common sense therefore requires accounting for the risk of manipulation: The more evidence that a perception of partisanship was manufactured for ulterior reasons, the more emphasis judges should give to whether that perception is justified. Nathan L. Kinard, National Review, "Ethics Rules Do Not Bar Judges from Membership in the Federalist Society," 6 Feb. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ulterior

Time Traveler for ulterior

Time Traveler

The first known use of ulterior was in 1646

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about ulterior

Statistics for ulterior

Last Updated

23 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ulterior.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ulterior. Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!