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

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of underlying in a Sentence

the ocean and the underlying rock the underlying differences between democracy and dictatorship
Recent Examples on the Web The emphasis will be on composition, the underlying drawing, and how correct shapes and tone are especially important, and how the unique behavior of the watercolor medium can work to your advantage in producing an attractive painting. courant.com, "Community News For The Vernon Edition," 19 Feb. 2021 The underlying premise of overreach ignores the fundamental DNA of the man behind the bank account. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Padres chairman: Financial push for Fernando Tatis ‘completely sustainable’," 18 Feb. 2021 But about 40 percent also reported underlying health risks. New York Times, "Oregon Is Vaccinating Teachers. It Might Not Be Enough to Reopen Schools.," 17 Feb. 2021 There was no underlying danger to the reactor itself, Rampal and other experts said, and the trip was part of normal safety operations protocol. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "How and why a nuclear reactor shut down in Texas cold snap when energy was needed most," 17 Feb. 2021 This disastrous patchwork of delivery systems, and the crisis of inequity that flows from it, resembles nothing so much as our underlying health care system. John Knefel, The New Republic, "Don’t Let Amazon and Airbnb Get Their Tentacles in Vaccine Distribution," 17 Feb. 2021 Another is immunological: Whereas some vaccines share the same underlying technology platforms—such as the messenger RNA technology used by both the Pfizer-BioNTech collaboration and Moderna—others do not. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "Should you mix and match COVID-19 vaccines? Scientists are seeking answers," 12 Feb. 2021 Child protection systems attempt to break the cycle of abuse through treatment programs and services that help to deal with underlying causes of abuse and neglect. Star Tribune, "Minnesota's Children's Justice Initiative celebrates 20 years of protecting vulnerable children," 12 Feb. 2021 The underlying belief was that metals were alive and growing, and could change into other substances. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "The Eternal Quest for Aether, the Cosmic Stuff That Never Was," 10 Feb. 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of underlying

1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about underlying

Time Traveler for underlying

Time Traveler

The first known use of underlying was in 1611

See more words from the same year

Statistics for underlying

Last Updated

25 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Underlying.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/underlying. Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!