un·​der·​lie | \ ˌən-dər-ˈlī How to pronounce underlie (audio) \
underlay\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈlā How to pronounce underlie (audio) \; underlain\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈlān How to pronounce underlie (audio) \; underlying\ ˌən-​dər-​ˈlī-​iŋ How to pronounce underlie (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 The third principle, simplicity, seems to underlie both of the others. Hari Kunzru, Harpers Magazine, "Complexity," 5 Jan. 2021 Bigness can be perilous for Black boys, who are often seen as older, stronger and less innocent than their white counterparts, stereotypes that underlie higher rates of school discipline and police violence. Akilah Johnson, ProPublica, "How COVID-19 Hollowed Out a Generation of Young Black Men," 22 Dec. 2020 California’s taxes underlie many of the complaints. Heather Somerville, WSJ, "Elon Musk Moves to Texas, Takes Jab at Silicon Valley," 9 Dec. 2020 In this way, Friston and others propose, predictions underlie everything the brain does, from perception to movement to decision-making. Diana Kwon, Scientific American, "Decoding a Disorder at the Interface of Mind and Brain," 1 Nov. 2020 The technologies that underlie the Porsche project are already proven and well understood. Russ Mitchell Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Porsche launches effort to make carbon-neutral ‘e-gas’," 2 Dec. 2020 This idea also seems to underlie new work from a team of international climate scientists, who recently made the case that climate modeling centers should include simulations of past climates in their predictions of future climate change. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Why a Utah cave may hold clues to climate change and a warning about our water future," 30 Nov. 2020 Scientists have used illusions for decades to explore the psychological and cognitive processes that underlie human visual perception. Mary Bates, Animals, "Which optical illusions can animals see?," 24 Nov. 2020 These experiments show that the tagging of H3 by dopamine does indeed underlie drug-seeking behavior, by regulating the neural circuits operating in addiction. Quanta Magazine, "The Epigenetic Secrets Behind Dopamine, Drug Addiction and Depression," 27 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for underlie

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for underlie

Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Underlie.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/underlie. Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for underlie


How to pronounce underlie (audio)

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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