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 Roberts and his colleagues avoided those questions by resolving the case’s underlying dispute on statutory grounds instead. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "How the Supreme Court Kills Roe v. Wade," 11 July 2018 And there are other potential factors underlying large racial disparities, including that BART last year put extra patrols in East Oakland — where the black population is higher — in response to a surge of robberies. Ted Andersen, SFChronicle.com, "Two-thirds of people banned from BART are black — and agency isn’t asking why," 6 July 2018 That disparity underlies the global movement of peoples, setting off a populist turn in world politics. George P. Shultz, WSJ, "America Can Ride the 21st Century’s Waves of Change," 27 June 2018 But the shortfall also underlies a promising business case for GSK. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "There's Massive Demand for GlaxoSmithKline's Shingles Vaccine—And It's Causing a Shortfall," 25 June 2018 This philosophy underlies the new AR experience, which will be continually updated as new content is developed. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Step Into Scotland With Immersive AR App," 12 June 2018 Hsiao, 75, died April 20 at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield of pneumonia related to underlying cancer, according to his daughter, Amy. Graydon Megan, chicagotribune.com, "Chih Ming Jimmy Hsiao, taught computer-assisted design, math and science at Truman College, dies," 4 May 2018 But sometimes there’s an underlying wisdom in a democracy. Marc Hirsh, BostonGlobe.com, "Brandi Carlile’s thing: Sing every song like it’s your last," 2 May 2018 Instead, Bell shaped fast-flying figurations to bring forth the melodic shapes underlying the fireworks, Alsop providing a supple orchestral cushion. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "CSO at Ravinia review: Marin Alsop poetically launches Bernstein tribute," 13 July 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

3 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for underlie

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

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More Definitions for underlie



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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Comments on underlie

What made you want to look up underlie? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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