un·​der·​gird | \ ˌən-dər-ˈgərd How to pronounce undergird (audio) \
undergirded; undergirding; undergirds

Definition of undergird

transitive verb

1 archaic : to make secure underneath took measures to undergird the ship — Acts 27:17 (Revised Standard Version)
2 : to form the basis or foundation of : strengthen, support facts and statistics subtly undergird his commentary— Susan Q. Stranahan

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Did You Know?

The English verb gird means, among other things, "to encircle or bind with a flexible band." When undergird first entered English in the 16th century it meant "to make secure underneath," as by passing a rope or chain underneath something (such as a ship). That literal sense has long since fallen out of use, but in the 19th century undergird picked up the figurative "strengthen" or "support" sense that we still use. Gird and consequently undergird both derive from the Old English geard, meaning "enclosure" or "yard." Gird also gives us girder, a noun referring to a horizontal piece supporting a structure.

Examples of undergird in a Sentence

the theory of evolution undergirds virtually all of modern biology
Recent Examples on the Web Cooder also offered a tribute to another key player in the Cash universe: Luther Perkins, whose tick-tock guitar rhythms undergirded countless classic songs. Greg Kot, chicagotribune.com, "Review: Rosanne Cash and Ry Cooder put fresh twist on Johnny Cash songs at Chicago Theatre," 19 June 2019 But, as demand for oil began to fall early this year, taking prices down with it, the winking understanding that undergirded the arrangement was superseded by clear-eyed economics. Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, "How the Russian-Saudi Oil War Went Awry—for Putin Most of All," 15 Apr. 2020 Thucydides reminds us of the resilience of common institutions and sustaining values, and above all of the importance of holding together in support of the human communities that undergird and constitute those institutions. Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times, "Coronavirus on Campus: Like a Bad Bridge Hand. No, Like an R.E.M. Song.," 24 Mar. 2020 The implosion of the alliance effectively ended cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which has undergirded oil prices since 2016. Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle, "Oil prices plunge more than 30 percent amid Russia-Saudi Arabia price fight over coronavirus," 9 Mar. 2020 From a statistical perspective, these are very safe, and so (it is argued) people's fear can be explained only by emotion, undergirded by ignorance. Naomi Oreskes, Scientific American, "Why Do White Men and Scientists Tend to Downplay the Risks of Technology?," 7 Apr. 2020 Our voting systems, the information technology that undergirds our elections, are dangerously outdated and vulnerable to attack. Alejandro De La Garza, Time, "How American Elections Got So Vulnerable—and What We All Can Do Now," 27 Mar. 2020 What happens if these same arguments undergird claims to the presidency on the left? Time, "It Matters That Elizabeth Warren Is a Woman. Why Do So Many on the Left Insist That It Doesn't?," 16 Jan. 2020 Functionally, this means his religion is indistinguishable from the vision of solidarity undergirding his socialist politics. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Bernie Sanders Is the Candidate of Nonbelievers," 3 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'undergird.' 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 undergird

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of undergird was in 1526

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Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Undergird.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undergird. Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for undergird


How to pronounce undergird (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of undergird

chiefly US : to strengthen or support (something) from below

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with undergird

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