un·​der·​lie | \ ˌən-dər-ˈlī How to pronounce underlie (audio) \
underlay\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈlā How to pronounce underlay (audio) \; underlain\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈlān How to pronounce underlain (audio) \; underlying\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈlī-​iŋ How to pronounce underlying (audio) \

Definition of underlie

transitive verb

1 : to lie or be situated under
2 : to be at the basis of : form the foundation of : support ideas underlying the revolution
3 : to exist as a claim or security superior and prior to (another)
4 archaic : to be subject or amenable to

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

While infections are common, discoloration could also be an underlying cause of breast cancer. Yerin Kim, Seventeen, "Are Your Boobs Normal? We Asked An Expert," 8 Mar. 2019 The growth rate over time is shown in the figure below, smoothed over three-year periods to highlight some of the underlying trends. Jason Furman, Vox, "The real reason you’re not getting a pay raise," 11 Aug. 2018 The surprising result is explained by three underlying trends. The Economist, "In praise of gentrification," 21 June 2018 And whereas the Bering Sea has had plenty of winters as stormy as this one, the underlying warming trend means such winters can have a much bigger impact on sea-ice formation in today’s climate. Andrea Thompson, Scientific American, "Shock and Thaw—Alaskan Sea Ice Just Took a Steep, Unprecedented Dive," 2 May 2018 The United States has added an average of 202,000 jobs a month in the first three months of 2018, which probably reflects the true underlying trend better than either February or March in isolation. New York Times, "The March Jobs Numbers Show the Economy Is Sound, but Far From Invincible," 6 Apr. 2018 But some analysts and investors say that the early underperformance of transportation stocks had more to do with a string of downbeat analyst reports at the start of the year, rather than underlying weakness in the U.S. economy. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Transport Shares Shine After Slow Start to 2018," 14 Mar. 2018 So, no, there are no underlying issues between the Fab Four that caused Harry and Meg not to celebrate the day with the Cambridge's—just a simple case of Kate wanting to spend her birthday with friends. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Why Meghan and Harry Reportedly Didn't Attend Kate's Birthday Celebrations," 27 Jan. 2019 Trump’s plan also sets up a blue ribbon commission tasked with addressing underlying issues of school shootings, headed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Grace Donnelly, Fortune, "Donald Trump's Plan for Gun Policy Changes Falls Short of his Rhetoric," 12 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 4

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Statistics for underlie

Last Updated

23 Apr 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 How to pronounce underlie (audio) \
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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not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped

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