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[uhn-der-mahyn or especially for 1, 2, 4, uhn-der-mahyn] /ˌʌn dərˈmaɪn or especially for 1, 2, 4, ˈʌn dərˌmaɪn/
verb (used with object), undermined, undermining.
to injure or destroy by insidious activity or imperceptible stages, sometimes tending toward a sudden dramatic effect.
to attack by indirect, secret, or underhand means; attempt to subvert by stealth.
to make an excavation under; dig or tunnel beneath, as a military stronghold.
to weaken or cause to collapse by removing underlying support, as by digging away or eroding the foundation.
Origin of undermine
First recorded in 1300-50, undermine is from the Middle English word underminen. See under-, mine2
Related forms
underminer, noun
underminingly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for undermine
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Such association is enough to undermine the morals of a saint, in a week or two.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • It is not in the power of events to undermine the felicity of the virtuous.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • Or, more probably, pity had not come in to undermine the foundations.

    Rosinante to the Road Again

    John Dos Passos
  • Strafford, The wind that saps these walls can undermine Your camp in Scotland, too.

    Browning's England Helen Archibald Clarke
  • The boys borrowed these, and went to work to undermine the big stone.

British Dictionary definitions for undermine


verb (transitive)
(of the sea, wind, etc) to wear away the bottom or base of (land, cliffs, etc)
to weaken gradually or insidiously: their insults undermined her confidence
to tunnel or dig beneath
Derived Forms
underminer, 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 undermine

c.1300, undermyne, from under + mine (v.). The figurative sense is attested from early 15c. Cf. Dutch ondermijnen, Danish underminere, German unterminiren. Related: Undermined; undermining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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