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

Objective tinnitus often recedes when the underlying problem is treated. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Is Tinnitus?," 30 Jan. 2019 In every niche interest or activity, the apps that serve will continue to become more inherently social – because the underlying demand/desire for connecting with others and building a sense of community around those is still intact. Casey Newton, The Verge, "22 predictions for social media in 2019," 15 Dec. 2018 However, underlying copper demand has been resilient in recent months, with local premiums remaining buoyant. David Hodari, WSJ, "Metals Rise as Dollar Ticks Lower," 14 Nov. 2018 The makeshift arrangement lasted for about five hours until the underlying fiber problem was finally fixed. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Technical Difficulties Send Airport Running for the Whiteboards," 20 Aug. 2018 Stewart, like General Michael Flynn, was convicted of lying to the federation, but not for the underlying crime. Fox News, "Turley: Trump did not obstruct justice by firing James Comey," 1 June 2018 One for the underlying crime for which they’ve been convicted of and the other just for being transgender. Washington Post, "Law: Trans Connecticut inmates will be housed appropriately," 26 May 2018 But that, many legal experts say is a misunderstanding of the law, that people can be charged by prosecutors with obstruction of justice even if no underlying crime is proven. John Wagner, chicagotribune.com, "Trump lashes out at investigation into obstruction of justice," 2 May 2018 That would leave Mueller accusing Trump of a cover-up without an underlying crime. T.a. Frank, The Hive, "War, Not Scandal, Is What Will End Donald Trump," 21 Mar. 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

10 Feb 2019

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on underlie

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with underlie

Spanish Central: Translation of underlie

Nglish: Translation of underlie for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of underlie for Arabic Speakers

Comments on underlie

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a servile follower or underling

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