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

Because underneath that soft-spoken demeanor is a woman capable of exploiting the insecurities and underlying guilt of the women her son knew. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "Why Meryl Streep’s Sly Matriarch Works So Well on Big Little Lies," 11 June 2019 That’s the premise underlying many of the housing bills our state legislators are proposing, including SB 50, AB 1279. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Will building luxury condos solve the housing crisis?," 6 June 2019 Herradura and el Jimador both posted 13% growth in underlying net sales for the year. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Brown-Forman estimates $125 million in retaliatory tariffs for the year," 5 June 2019 The new report reveals a contrast in the demographics underlying the problem of drug-dependent infants. Marie Mccullough, https://www.inquirer.com, "White infants in rural Pennsylvania especially hard hit by opioid crisis, data suggest," 4 June 2019 But Kudlow insisted that while the economy has slowed, the labor market and underlying growth in consumer spending and business investment have remained strong. Martin Crutsinger, The Seattle Times, "Kudlow calls for one-half point rate cut by Fed," 31 Mar. 2019 Where other people might take offense, Hayek understands what underlies the impulse and is able to laugh it off. Elizabeth Day, Town & Country, "Salma Hayek Isn't Going to Let Anyone Define Her," 6 Mar. 2019 The most glaring issue, Egelman explains, is that there isn't a single legal expression underlying the terms and conditions pages of popular apps. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "The Weather Channel Is Being Sued for Selling Your Data. How Long Before All the Other Apps Are Next?," 10 Jan. 2019 The MoTe2 shouldn't undergo the sort of crystalline/amorphous change that underlies phase-change memories, either. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Researchers make RAM from a phase change we don’t entirely understand," 18 Dec. 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

16 Jun 2019

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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 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

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