Definition of ulterior
- ulterior motives
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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.
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."
: kept hidden in order to get a particular result
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