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

Yet the lyrics feel deeper than that—how fish are powerful in their plainness and able to swim underwater, where a person in a boat would be caught in the undertow. Vogue, "Meet Alyona Alyona, Ukraine’s Most Unlikely Rap Star," 11 Apr. 2019 Lifeguards can’t just walk off the job, not with high winds, a dangerous undertow and a couple hundred Portuguese men-of-war sighted in the region. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "The Awful Dangers of Calling It Quits Before You’re Done," 20 Sep. 2018 The two are interviewed separately, a pointed decision that gives the picture its distinctly melancholy undertow. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "'Three Identical Strangers' is a riveting account of identical triplets separated at birth," 28 June 2018 To be sure, Republican state candidates, like their counterparts running for the House, also struggled to overcome the Trump undertow. Allysia Finley, WSJ, "A Big Night for Democrats, but Not Progressives," 7 Nov. 2018 An unidentified 47-year-old woman died Sunday near Half Moon Bay after attempting to save three kids reportedly swept out to sea by an undertow. Edmund Demarche, Fox News, "California woman drowns trying to save 3 kids in ocean: report," 2 July 2018 But the Supreme Court underscores its ability to counteract the undertow of its deepening, unpopular extremism by marshaling countermajoritiarian power. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Republican Court and the Era of Minority Rule," 27 June 2018 An undertow of tragedy suggests that for African Americans, in particular, progress has been far too slow. Julia M. Klein, Philly.com, "Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's Ragtime thrills," 17 June 2018 No two phrases — sometimes no two pitches — show quite the same vocal color, Eder continually recasting the music to reflect the emotional undertow of a Sondheim masterpiece. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Linda Eder hits a personal best with 'If You See Me'," 2 July 2018

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.

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First Known Use of undertow

1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for undertow

Last Updated

5 May 2019

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Time Traveler for undertow

The first known use of undertow was in 1817

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More Definitions for undertow



English Language Learners Definition of undertow

: a current in the sea or ocean that is below the surface and that moves away from the shore


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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More from Merriam-Webster on undertow

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with undertow

Spanish Central: Translation of undertow

Nglish: Translation of undertow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about undertow

Comments on undertow

What made you want to look up undertow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a strong desire or propensity

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