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

Some critics of gaming disorder, including Ferguson, also worry that unhealthy gaming is merely a symptom of more serious underlying conditions, like depression, anxiety, or autism-spectrum disorder. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Why Is There a ‘Gaming Disorder’ But No ‘Smartphone Disorder?’," 28 June 2018 Thurmond and his partner, who would be known as resident officer community keepers, or ROCK cops, would be tasked not with arresting criminals but with treating the underlying conditions that breed crime. Ben Austen, The New Republic, "How one American city chose to tackle crime, combat racism, and reckon with the legacy of police brutality," 21 June 2018 More important than the underlying conditions is the degree to which would-be autocrats learn from each other—how to spread fake news, squash pesky journalists and play the populist card. The Economist, "Lessons from the rise of strongmen in weak states," 14 June 2018 However, some kids develop scoliosis from birth or because of other underlying medical conditions that affect the muscles and skeletal bones. Dr. Carolyn Kienstra And Dr. Alicia Morrisson, miamiherald, "Scoliosis a common condition that could require medical care," 12 June 2018 Body odors are often caused by three things: diet, stress, and underlying medical conditions. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "How to Tell If Your Bad Body Odor Is Cause for Concern," 8 May 2018 When a Republican legislator objected to the amendment as not being germane to the underlying bill, the Democratic majority stopped the debate. Christopher Keating, courant.com, "House Begins Debate On Casino Bill, Plans To Continue Friday Morning," 4 May 2018 Forty-four percent were under 65 years old and most of the patients who died had underlying medical conditions, the county reported. City News Service, Ramona Sentinel, "Final flu report shows 341 deaths this season," 4 May 2018 Doctors often use a combination of off-label drugs to try to manage patients’ nightmares, flashbacks and depression, but the drugs do nothing to treat the underlying condition, and can have negative side effects. Dave Philipps, New York Times, "Ecstasy as PTSD Relief for Soldiers: ‘I Was Able to Forgive Myself.’," 1 May 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

13 Sep 2018

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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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