un·​der·​tow | \ ˈən-dər-ˌtō How to pronounce undertow (audio) \

Definition of undertow

1 : the current beneath the surface that sets seaward or along the beach when waves are breaking upon the shore
2 : an underlying current, force, or tendency that is in opposition to what is apparent

Examples of undertow in a Sentence

Don't get caught in the undertow.
Recent Examples on the Web The sizable waves and powerful undertow mean Zicatela isn’t suitable for casual surfing—or even swimming. Sara Clemence, WSJ, 24 Mar. 2022 King said shortly after the city built its current water plant in 1936, the undertow in Lake Michigan made the beach unsafe for swimming. Steve Sadin, chicagotribune.com, 12 Apr. 2022 Now Republicans are confident that Biden's sagging approval ratings in the key states will create a comparable undertow on Democrats. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, 15 Mar. 2022 History is real, and its undertow is always felt, but none of us simply melt into it. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 14 Mar. 2022 Full of humor and pathos, and with a quiet, melancholy undertow. Riza Cruz, ELLE, 23 Feb. 2022 And there’s always the undertow — that chance of ending up in deeper waters. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 15 Feb. 2022 And the Maels are among the great wits of rock for how, as silly as the songs can get, there’s usually (not always) a real emotional undertow to the work. Chris Willman, Variety, 8 Feb. 2022 That loss, and the sad outcome of his great love of those years, fuel an undertow of melancholy in a figure more often played as aloof and spiky, though invariably likable. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'undertow.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of undertow

1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of undertow was in 1817

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Last Updated

3 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Undertow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undertow. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for undertow


un·​der·​tow | \ ˈən-dər-ˌtō How to pronounce undertow (audio) \

Kids Definition of undertow

: a current beneath the surface of the water that moves away from or along the shore while the surface water above it moves toward the shore


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