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 Texas grid regulators owe it to the state to determine whether any of these market participants had ulterior motives that informed their decisions to keep power offline. Ed Hirs, Forbes, "How Market Disincentives Are Again Squeezing The Texas Power Grid," 20 Apr. 2021 After receiving a promotion at work, a young woman hires a personal assistant who seems perfect, but the assistant has an ulterior motive for taking the job. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week ‘Pulp Fiction’ on BBC America and IFC," 9 Apr. 2021 The abstinence movement might have been the public focus of Milwaukee's first St. Patrick's Day parade, but Kundig's plans for what is one of the oldest St. Patrick's Day parades in the United States also had an ulterior motive. Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee's first St. Patrick's Day parade was partly an anti-drinking event. Partly.," 17 Mar. 2021 The buyer of Beeple’s record work was revealed as Vignesh Sundaresan, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur offering digital tokens, or digital pieces of ownership of works, including Beeple art, raising questions of ulterior motives. Alex Konrad, Forbes, "He Sold A Digital ‘CryptoPunk’ For $7.5 Million. Now Figma CEO Dylan Field Is Ready To Move Into The ‘Metaverse.’," 18 Mar. 2021 Wang said the genocide accusations were complete lie fabricated with ulterior motives. NBC News, "Biden should reverse 'dangerous practice' on Taiwan, China's foreign minister says," 7 Mar. 2021 Despite her ulterior motives, Agatha could be a helpful therapist to Wanda at times. New York Times, "Kathryn Hahn Talks About Her Insidious, Perfidious Role on ‘WandaVision’," 7 Mar. 2021 There are no ulterior motives and that genuineness comes across. Carlos Aguilar, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Subtle Moroccan drama ‘Adam’ turns on bond between women," 4 Mar. 2021 While trying to convince a disgraced ex-cop to come in from a high-rise ledge, a police negotiator begins to realize that the man has an ulterior motive. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘Gandhi’; ‘Forrest Gump’ and more," 26 Feb. 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of ulterior was in 1646

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Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

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