un·​der·​ly·​ing | \ ˌən-dər-ˈlī-iŋ How to pronounce underlying (audio) \

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

New orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, a common gauge of underlying business investment, fell 0.6% from October, the third decline in four months. Sharon Nunn, WSJ, "U.S. Consumers on Firm Footing, Businesses Wary as 2019 Nears," 21 Dec. 2018 That fall shows underlying inflation largely linked to wages remains weak. Washington Post, "EU predicts bright outlook for economy, tougher times for UK," 5 May 2018 More resources are needed to adjudicate asylum claims more rapidly, to secure people with pending claims in sustainable and humane ways, and to assist Central American countries in combating the underlying issues that drive people north. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "The shutdown is intractable because Trump’s wall is ridiculous and Republicans know it," 8 Jan. 2019 The underlying law of our universe is entropy, or constant descent into disorder. WSJ, "Modern Heraclitus: Trump’s Genius for Chaos," 1 July 2018 Companies objecting to it have the recourse of trying to get the California legislature to change the underlying law (which has actually been in place, albeit with a different judicial interpretation, for a century). Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "California Court Ruling Could Be Major Blow to ‘Gig Economy’ Firms," 1 May 2018 Critics of the legislation say those numbers are high because foster youth often have underlying issues that need to be addressed, such as previous abuse and family separation. Samantha Young, sacbee, "Should ‘gender-affirming health care’ be on the radar for California’s foster kids?," 2 July 2018 For example, certain underlying conditions that contribute to infertility may react to the process in different ways. Korin Miller, SELF, "Jana Kramer Got Pregnant After a Failed Round of IVF—Twice," 2 Nov. 2018 The underlying conditions that produce violence always matter. David Mcfadden, The Seattle Times, "FBI: Baltimore homicide rate topped US big cities in 2017," 25 Sep. 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

1 Mar 2019

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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 How to pronounce underlying (audio) \

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).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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