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

But Shults' scenes of house parties and electric-blue beach dusks are tinged with an undertow of dread, danger and melancholy. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Waves': Film Review | Telluride 2019," 31 Aug. 2019 That danger comes through from the start of the opera: Over a deep, sustained pedal tone, the music heaves and surges with murky harmonies and a brassy undertow. New York Times, "Review: ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ the Opera, Falls Short of Its Potential," 1 June 2018 Today, Mahendra Mandal tills the same sediments where, not so long ago, dolphins trailed their flippers in an undertow of darkness, dredging up mollusks to eat. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "India’s holiest river is drying up," 9 Aug. 2019 Most dangerous are the choruses, gorgeous harmonies that warn about riptides and undertows. Joshua Barone, New York Times, "Review: In Venice, an Opera Masks Climate Crisis in a Gentle Tune," 14 July 2019 The sense of disconnect pictured in his works spills from their surfaces and catches viewers in an undertow that drowns the superficial pleasures some viewers see as the point and purpose of his paintings. David Pagel, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Forget sexy. Eric Fischl paints the dark dramas amid all that skin," 16 July 2019 There also is the threat of rip currents, waves and undertows and recent thunderstorms with rainfall could cause high e-coli bacteria counts in the water. Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune, "Gary beaches open: New rules say children must be within arm's reach of an adult," 6 June 2019 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

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

8 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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