un·​der·​sto·​ry ˈən-dər-ˌstȯr-ē How to pronounce understory (audio)
: an underlying layer of vegetation
specifically : the vegetative layer and especially the trees and shrubs between the forest canopy and the ground cover
: the plants that form the understory

Examples of understory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Record-high temperatures and this extreme drought have sapped the Amazon’s trees of their moisture, leaving the forest understory littered with woody debris that has grown dry, primed to ignite. Quentin Septer, WIRED, 11 Mar. 2024 Temperate deciduous trees have begun invading the understory of conifers in the Northwoods because the warming climate has begun favoring them. Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Mar. 2024 Shading the understory can cause diverse grasses and shrubs to die off–triggering a ripple effect of cascading species losses all across the food web. Popular Science, 15 Feb. 2024 In their native land, coffee trees typically grow in the understory of tropical forests. Lesley Evans Ogden, Smithsonian Magazine, 31 Jan. 2024 The canopy was far more closed, the understory far more open; Berenguer and Xarope didn’t even need to prune the trail for our visit. Alex Cuadros, New York Times, 4 Jan. 2023 One job leads to a bigger one, and then to a bigger one, and finally to a job that is larger than anyone can handle: restoring the forest and its understory, which has been devoured by an overabundance of deer and smothered by invasive plants. Laurie Hertzel, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2023 An understory of ferns, lupines and tall grasses laps at the legs as hikers take on the gentle inclines. Mare Czinar, The Arizona Republic, 5 Aug. 2023 Long Answer: Look for rich, moist soils in the understory Pawpaw trees only grow about 25 feet tall, so they’re generally found in the understory. Karl Schneider, The Indianapolis Star, 7 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'understory.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1902, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of understory was in 1902

Dictionary Entries Near understory

Cite this Entry

“Understory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understory. Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


un·​der·​sto·​ry ˈən-dər-ˌstōr-ē How to pronounce understory (audio)
: the layer of plants and especially the trees and shrubs between the forest canopy and the ground cover

More from Merriam-Webster on understory

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