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undercurrent

[uhn-der-kur-uh nt, -kuhr-]
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noun
  1. a tendency underlying or at variance with the obvious or superficial significance of words, actions, etc.: Even in his friendliest remarks, one could sense an undercurrent of hostility.
  2. a current, as of air or water, that flows below the upper currents or surface.

Origin of undercurrent

First recorded in 1675–85; under- + current
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for undercurrent

undercurrent

noun
  1. a current that is not apparent at the surface or lies beneath another current
  2. an opinion, emotion, etc, lying beneath apparent feeling or meaning
Also called: underflow
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for undercurrent

n.

1660s, "stream of water or air flowing beneath the surface or beneath another current," a hybrid formed from under + current (n.). The figurative sense of "suppressed or underlying character" is attested from 1817.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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