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 Buybacks also inflate per-share earnings, even when underlying profits stay the same. Matt Egan, CNN, "Stock buybacks are reaching dangerous levels," 30 July 2019 The plans included partnerships between government, nonprofits and private-sector entities to address underlying social issues that lead to violence in Cleveland. Adam Ferrise, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s great-grandson accused of shooting at police officers," 19 July 2019 Kansas public health officials reported the sixth vaping death Tuesday — an adult older than 50 with an underlying health issue, according to a press release. Kate Thayer, chicagotribune.com, "After a 6th death related to a mystery vaping illness, here are 5 things to know about the e-cigarette trend and the current health scare," 11 Sep. 2019 Also underlying the meteoric rise of skincare is a complex desire to defy the process of aging. Sangeeta Singh-kurtz, Quartzy, "Ulta is struggling because of your boring beauty routine," 30 Aug. 2019 A year later, the video has faded somewhat from the public consciousness, though the underlying issues — including gentrification that is pricing many of Oakland’s African-American residents out of the city — remain a hot-button issue. Marisa Kendall, The Mercury News, "Oakland’s second ‘BBQing While Black’ party draws big crowds," 21 July 2019 The one underlying thing with those teams is that the fans appreciate the effort. Peter Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, "Here’s why Rich Hill wants to pitch as long as he can," 20 July 2019 Volokh had addressed the exception and the underlying case, Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., in multiple journal articles. Anchorage Daily News, "Woman who urged boyfriend to kill himself asks Supreme Court to call it free speech," 9 July 2019 The Anglo-Dutch giant, which owns the Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice-cream brands, said Thursday that underlying sales growth in 2019 will be at the low end of its 3% to 5% target. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "The Hidden Risk in Consumer Giants’ Shopping Spree," 31 Jan. 2019

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

3 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for underlie

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

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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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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).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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