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[verb uhn-der-ley; noun uhn-der-ley] /verb ˌʌn dərˈleɪ; noun ˈʌn dərˌleɪ/
verb (used with object), underlaid, underlaying.
to lay under or beneath.
to provide with something laid underneath; raise or support with something laid underneath:
The manufacturer underlays the chrome finish with a zinc coating.
to extend across the bottom of.
something underlaid.
Printing. a piece or pieces of paper put under type or cuts to bring them to the proper height for printing.
Origin of underlay
before 900; Middle English underleyen, Old English underlecgan; see under-, lay1


[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.
before 900; Middle English underlyen (v.), Old English underlicgan. See under-, lie2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for underlay
Contemporary Examples
  • Thus was paved the way for the abstractions that underlay the casino capitalism about which everybody now has nothing good to say.

Historical Examples
  • He noted, but hardly considered, an older trail that underlay this one.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • The notion was that it underlay existing law and must be looked for through it.

    Ancient Law Sir Henry James Sumner Maine
  • I did not then understand the despair which underlay his iron quietness.

    The King's Mirror Anthony Hope
  • A long course of preparation, it is true, underlay that marvellous growth.

  • One expresses the outward fact; the other expresses that which underlay it.

    Expositions of Holy Scripture Alexander Maclaren
  • In sprig C the underlay is of parchment, lightly stitched in place.

    Art in Needlework Lewis F. Day
  • In sprig F the underlay is of cardboard, pasted on to the linen.

    Art in Needlework Lewis F. Day
  • Reefs may go down vertically, or on a sloping “dip” or “underlay.”

    Spinifex and Sand David W Carnegie
  • Black, in the same manner, may be intensified by an underlay of blue.

    Practical Lithography Alfred Seymour
British Dictionary definitions for underlay


verb (transitive) (ˌʌndəˈleɪ) -lays, -laying, -laid
to place (something) under or beneath
to support by something laid beneath
to achieve the correct printing pressure all over (a forme block) or to bring (a block) up to type height by adding material, such as paper, to the appropriate areas beneath it
noun (ˈʌndəˌleɪ)
a layer, lining, support, etc, laid underneath something else
(printing) material, such as paper, used to underlay a forme or block
felt, rubber, etc, laid beneath a carpet to increase insulation and resilience


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 underlay

Old English under lecgan "to support by placing something beneath;" see under + lay (v.). Related: Underlaid; underlaying.



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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