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[uhn-der-lahy] /ˌʌn dərˈlaɪ/
verb (used with object), underlay, underlain, underlying.
to lie under or beneath; be situated under.
to be at the basis of; form the foundation of.
Grammar. to function as the root morpheme or original or basic form of (a derived form): The form “boy” underlies “boyish.”.
Finance. to be primary to another right or security.
Origin of underlie
before 900; Middle English underlyen (v.), Old English underlicgan. See under-, lie2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for underlain
Historical Examples
  • It is underlain by an unrealized wealth that may never be brought to light.

    The Booklover and His Books Harry Lyman Koopman
  • They are underlain by rounded bosses of especially resistant rock.

    Mount Rainier

  • By far the larger portion of the surface of the continent is underlain by them.

    North America Israel C. Russell
  • He felt what had underlain the words, and it was a hard blow to him.

    Mercy Philbrick's Choice Helen Hunt Jackson
  • Each coal seam is underlain by a bed of clay called "under-clay," containing the roots of the plants that grew on it.

  • He had seen too much of human misery to be habitually jocose, and his whole nature was underlain by a groundwork of melancholy.

    Collections and Recollections George William Erskine Russell
  • Its remarkable success has been due solely to the unselfish spirit of service which has underlain it.

    The War Romance of the Salvation Army Evangeline Booth and Grace Livingston Hill
  • The tenderness which has underlain even John's remonstrances culminates in his closing words.

  • The quiet, inassailable knowledge of this truth had underlain Tanqueray's most irritable utterances.

    The Creators

    May Sinclair
  • Less than 500 square miles are there underlain by workable anthracite coal.

    Geology William J. Miller
British Dictionary definitions for underlain


verb (transitive) -lies, -lying, -lay, -lain
to lie or be placed under or beneath
to be the foundation, cause, or basis of: careful planning underlies all our decisions
(finance) to take priority over (another claim, liability, mortgage, etc): a first mortgage underlies a second
to be the root or stem from which (a word) is derived: "happy" underlies "happiest"
Derived Forms
underlier, noun
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 underlain



Old English under licgan "to be subordinate to, to submit to;" see under + lie (v.2). Meaning "to lie under or beneath" is attested from c.1600; figurative sense of "to be the basis of" is attested from 1852 (implied in underlying).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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