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[uhn-der-kur-uh nt, -kuhr-] /ˈʌn dərˌkɜr ənt, -ˌkʌr-/
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.
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for undercurrent
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And the undercurrent of suppressed excitement, the sensation of Her!

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • It seems to me that you're running a sort of undercurrent in my thoughts all day long.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • Then, from an undercurrent of exhilaration, it occurred to her that she had never laughed so in all these years.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • As it was, there ran through the town an undercurrent of puzzled suspicion.

    Ruggles of Red Gap Harry Leon Wilson
  • But subconsciously there ran an undercurrent of dread insecurity.

British Dictionary definitions for undercurrent


a current that is not apparent at the surface or lies beneath another current
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
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Word Origin and History for undercurrent

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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