un·​der·​ly·​ing | \ˌən-dər-ˈlī-iŋ \

Definition of underlying 

1a : lying beneath or below the underlying rock is shale

b : basic, fundamental an investigation of the underlying issues

2 : evident only on close inspection : implicit

3 : anterior and prior in claim underlying mortgage

4 : of or being present in deep structure underlying word order

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Examples of underlying in a Sentence

the ocean and the underlying rock the underlying differences between democracy and dictatorship

Recent Examples on the Web

It's been the underlying issue that has dominated yet another Newcastle United pre-season discussion: will Rafa Benitez sign a new contract with the club? SI.com, "Mike Ashley Must Be Proactive if He Wants Rafa Benitez to Sign a New Contract at Newcastle," 11 July 2018 But the underlying causes of childhood obesity are fiendishly tricky to fix. The Economist, "As rich children slim down, poor ones are getting fatter," 31 May 2018 Ramachandran sought to go beyond the typical observational case study and performed a handful of simple experiments with his student, David, to untangle possible underlying causes of the delusion. Meeri Kim, Washington Post, "This strange syndrome causes people to think their loved ones have been replaced by identical impostors," 7 Apr. 2018 That may include a physical exam to rule out any of those possible underlying causes, as well as a sleep study and keeping track of your usual sleep habits. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "Charlize Theron Got Cannabis Edibles From Her Mom to Help Her Sleep," 12 Mar. 2018 The goal is to better identify which patients can tolerate intensive chemotherapy, and which patients may need modified treatment regimens because of underlying conditions, such as cognitive impairment, that often go undetected by oncologists. Judith Graham, Washington Post, "Geriatric Assessments Could Fine-Tune Cancer Care For Older Adults," 28 June 2018 Being intoxicated in public is one of the underlying reasons the WWE office was down on Cass. Justin Barrasso, SI.com, "Sources: Big Cass Released by WWE Due to Personal Conduct Issues," 19 June 2018 Few dispute the underlying reasons for the administration’s frustration with the council. Carol Morello, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump administration pulls US out of UN Human Rights Council," 19 June 2018 Painkillers and antidepressants were listed, which could be related to underlying reasons for the depression. Carolyn Y. Johnson, Anchorage Daily News, "More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says," 13 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'underlying.' 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 underlying

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for underlying

The first known use of underlying was in 1611

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More Definitions for underlying



English Language Learners Definition of underlying

—used to identify the idea, cause, problem, etc., that forms the basis of something

: lying under or below something


un·​der·​ly·​ing | \-ˌlī-iŋ \

Medical Definition of underlying 

: serving as a basis or cause (as of secondary symptoms) the underlying brain malformation that caused the hydrocephalus— R. M. Henig

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Comments on underlying

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


to express warning or disapproval

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