What It Means
1 archaic : to make secure underneath
"The organ tones that undergirded much of her recent work suggested a secular version of the church nave. Here, the walls close in and we're transported somewhere deceptively plain, to what might be an afternoon recital in someone's home." — Thea Ballard, Pitchfork, 8 June 2019
"We were taught that the right to vote undergirds all other rights, that free and fair elections are necessary for social progress." — Stacey Abrams, The New York Times, 15 May 2019
Did You Know?
The English verb gird means, among other things, "to encircle or bind with a flexible band." When undergird first entered English in the 16th century, it meant "to make secure underneath," as by passing a rope or chain underneath something (such as a ship). That literal sense has long since fallen out of use, but in the 19th century undergird picked up the figurative "strengthen" or "support" sense that we still use. Gird and consequently undergird both derive from the Old English geard, meaning "enclosure" or "yard." Gird also gives us girder, a noun referring to a horizontal piece supporting a structure.
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