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

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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 some cases, college rankings are also decided by academic elites who may or may not have ulterior motives when selecting top schools. Robert Farrington, Forbes, 27 Sep. 2021 There was no ulterior motive in this regard; regular in-person interaction with clients was, and still is, the only way to properly understand their hopes, expectations and desires, and hence improve their financial outcomes. Michael Spellacy, Forbes, 28 Sep. 2021 The ulterior motive was to use our success to change where the songwriter sits in the economic equation. Jem Aswad, Variety, 21 Sep. 2021 Some fans believe Niantic has an ulterior motive: money. Washington Post, 27 Aug. 2021 Every clock has some ulterior motive—political, social, economic—beyond merely measuring time, Mr. Rooney asserts. Michael O’donnell, WSJ, 13 Aug. 2021 The voices of television characters whose lives were complicated by affairs and disappearances and villains with ulterior motives, and rarely involved dishes or ironing or putting children down for naps. Karen Brown, The Atlantic, 31 Aug. 2021 Indeed, there is a teasing hint in an early scene of director Clay Tarver’s comedy that at least one of those acquaintances may have sinister ulterior motives. Joe Leydon, Variety, 27 Aug. 2021 For whatever ulterior motives, Scrappy chooses Unique, and Detective Howard chooses to confront Raq about Kanan’s paternity. Kyesha Jennings, Vulture, 15 Aug. 2021

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

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The first known use of ulterior was in 1646

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ulterior motive

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ulterior.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ulterior. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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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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