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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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 All of these things clearly undergird the functioning of our economy, just as a smooth road allows trucks to transport goods to stores and drivers to get to their workplaces. Bryce Covert, Star Tribune, 28 Apr. 2021 Resolving this will take the efforts of not only food pantries like Bread of Life of Malden, but also legislators to address the structural issues that undergird the crisis. BostonGlobe.com, 8 Apr. 2021 To some community leaders, though, prosecuting hate crimes is not the best method for addressing the broader structural ills that undergird the violence that makes headlines. BostonGlobe.com, 4 Apr. 2021 Indeed, the worst thing about this overwrought and underthought superspectacle is the trivialization, manipulation, and deformation of the sincere and serious emotions that undergird and motivate its cast of heroes. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 18 Mar. 2021 The tepid demand concerned investors because the government is expected to sell a huge amount of debt in coming months to pay for the stimulus efforts that undergird the recovery. Sam Goldfarb, WSJ, 28 Feb. 2021 Limits—of time, space, materials, use cases, etc.—are what spark great design, and the global pandemic has forced everyone to reexamine the products, services, systems, processes and assumptions that undergird the modern world all at once. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, 2 Dec. 2020 It’s about protecting the economy and the people who undergird it. WSJ, 22 Dec. 2020 Instead, according to Inam, three fundamental pillars should undergird any use of A.I. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 22 Sep. 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

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Undergird.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undergird. Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of undergird

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

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