un·der·lie | \ ˌən-dər-ˈlī \
underlay\ˌən-dər-ˈlā \; underlain\ˌən-dər-ˈlān \; underlying\ˌən-dər-ˈlī-iŋ \

Definition of underlie 

transitive verb

1 archaic : to be subject or amenable to

2 : to lie or be situated under

3 : to be at the basis of : form the foundation of : support ideas underlying the revolution

4 : to exist as a claim or security superior and prior to (another)

Examples of underlie in a Sentence

A tile floor underlies the rug. The river is underlain by limestone. We discussed the principles that underlay their methods. A theme of revenge underlies much of her writing.
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Recent Examples on the Web

But, mapping services are only as good as the underlying data, which can be expensive to acquire and maintain. Bill Gourgey, WIRED, "How Artificial Intelligence Could Prevent Natural Disasters," 10 July 2018 Despite the best efforts of the BEA’s excellent civil servants, the underlying data are noisy and incomplete, meaning that revisions to GDP growth estimates can be large and often confusing. Jason Furman, WSJ, "The Economy Is Growing Faster Than the Government Says," 9 July 2018 But in April, Pruitt moved to prevent the agency from considering studies where underlying data is private — like the Harvard one. Dino Grandoni, Washington Post, "The Energy 202: Supreme Court to rehear moose-hunting case with wider implications for Alaska," 19 June 2018 Cashour declined to answer questions about why the VA hasn’t released the underlying nursing home quality data, inspection reports, or staffing data. USA TODAY, "Lawmakers demand secret VA nursing home data be released after USA TODAY, Boston Globe report," 19 June 2018 Following inquiries from USA Today and the Globe, the VA last week released some of its nursing home ratings, but not the underlying quality data, such as rates of infection and injury. BostonGlobe.com, "Lawmakers demand secret VA nursing home data be released after report," 19 June 2018 But the 21-year-old’s rise could be a case study in the challenges that prove Graham, and the underlying data about success rates with college players and high school players, to be true. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "As draft approaches, breakout Orioles prospect Ryan McKenna becomes rare prep outfielder to emerge," 2 June 2018 The underlying data raise as many questions as answers, and city leaders, pressed to respond to a situation some retailers feel has reached crisis levels, vow to keep downtown livability and safety as top priorities. Anna Marum, OregonLive.com, "Downtown Portland's paradox: Crime, public perceptions threaten growth, retailers say," 7 Jan. 2018 George’s team recently cracked the underlying problems using CRISPR. Rob Reid, Ars Technica, "Ars on your lunch break: The ins and outs of genomics with George Church, part 2," 13 June 2018

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for underlie

Last Updated

8 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for underlie

The first known use of underlie was before the 12th century

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English Language Learners Definition of underlie

: to lie or be located under (something)

: to form the basis or foundation of (an idea, a process, etc.)


un·der·lie | \ ˌən-dər-ˈlī \
underlay\-ˈlā \; underlain\-ˈlān \; underlying\-ˈlī-iŋ \

Kids Definition of underlie

1 : to lie or be located under A tile floor underlies the rug.

2 : to form the foundation of : support What ideals underlie democracy?

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