[uhn-der-kur-uh nt, -kuhr-]
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  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


  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

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