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

transitive verb

archaic : to make secure underneath
took measures to undergird the shipActs 27:17 (Revised Standard Version)
: to form the basis or foundation of : strengthen, support
facts and statistics subtly undergird his commentarySusan Q. Stranahan

Did you know?

When undergird was a new word in the 16th century, it was ships that were undergirded—that is, made secure below—and the undergirding was done by passing a rope or chain underneath. That literal sense has long since fallen out of use, but in the 19th century undergird picked up the figurative “strengthen” or “support” meaning that we still use. Centuries before anything was undergirded, however, people and things could be girded—that is, encircled or bound with a flexible band, such as a belt. Girding today is more often about preparing oneself to fight or to do something difficult, as in “girding themselves for an ideological battle.” About as old as gird is the word’s close relation, girdle, which originally referred to an article of clothing that circles the body usually at the waist; the girdles of today address the same anatomical territory but with the squeezy aim of making the waist look thinner. 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 Normalizing Israeli-Saudi relations is an appealing way to undergird peace and stability in the region and to counter Iran’s malign influence in the long term, but accomplishing it requires complicated political scaffolding that has yet to be fully designed, much less erected. Suzanne Maloney, Foreign Affairs, 8 Apr. 2024 The unsexy work of building the plumbing that undergirds this world will take significant resources, time and creativity. Lindsey Witmer Collins, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 The spat – which underscores the deep tensions undergirding the relationship between Asia’s two largest countries – comes as India is weeks away from national elections expected to deliver a resounding endorsement of Modi’s Hindu nationalist platform. Simone McCarthy, CNN, 22 Mar. 2024 The irony undergirding the new wave of obesity drugs is that they initially weren’t created for obesity at all. Yasmin Tayag, The Atlantic, 12 Mar. 2024 Strong tailwinds like the now-central place games occupy in youth culture, and the fast-evolving art form of game creation will undergird the business in the years ahead, Ball said. David Bloom, Forbes, 22 Feb. 2024 The eastern half was dominated by a massive warehouse encircled by roads and parking spaces; undergirding the industrial space were two rows of single family residences. Jaime Moore-Carrillo, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 26 Feb. 2024 The roadblocks — both literal and digital — that prohibit Palestinians from receiving aid reveal what otherwise might go unnoticed: there’s a complex web of red tape and corporate interests that undergird the supposedly seamless digital transfers that happen online every day. Mia Sato, The Verge, 29 Feb. 2024 In the past, single-payer legislation has divided Democrats and ultimately withered because of concerns over cost, opposition from private insurers and the complex bureaucracy that undergirds the nation’s delivery of healthcare, writes reporter Anabel Sosa. Laurel Rosenhall, Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'undergird.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of undergird was in 1526


Dictionary Entries Near undergird

Cite this Entry

“Undergird.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undergird. Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


un·​der·​gird ˌən-dər-ˈgərd How to pronounce undergird (audio)
: to make secure : brace up : strengthen
a life undergirded by religion
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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