• synonyms


[verb uhn-der-ley; noun uhn-der-ley]
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verb (used with object), un·der·laid, un·der·lay·ing.
  1. to lay under or beneath.
  2. to provide with something laid underneath; raise or support with something laid underneath: The manufacturer underlays the chrome finish with a zinc coating.
  3. to extend across the bottom of.
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  1. something underlaid.
  2. Printing. a piece or pieces of paper put under type or cuts to bring them to the proper height for printing.
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Origin of underlay

before 900; Middle English underleyen, Old English underlecgan; see under-, lay1


verb (used with object), un·der·lay, un·der·lain, un·der·ly·ing.
  1. to lie under or beneath; be situated under.
  2. to be at the basis of; form the foundation of.
  3. Grammar. to function as the root morpheme or original or basic form of (a derived form): The form “boy” underlies “boyish.”
  4. Finance. to be primary to another right or security.
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Origin of underlie

before 900; Middle English underlyen (v.), Old English underlicgan. See under-, lie2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for underlay

control, inhibit, dominate, handle, decide, manage, rule, curb, determine, regulate, guide, discipline, shepherd, incline, subdue, dispose, direct, tame, predispose, restrain

Examples from the Web for underlay

Contemporary Examples of underlay

Historical Examples of underlay

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for underlay


verb (ˌʌndəˈleɪ) -lays, -laying or -laid (tr)
  1. to place (something) under or beneath
  2. to support by something laid beneath
  3. 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
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noun (ˈʌndəˌleɪ)
  1. a layer, lining, support, etc, laid underneath something else
  2. printing material, such as paper, used to underlay a forme or block
  3. felt, rubber, etc, laid beneath a carpet to increase insulation and resilience
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verb -lies, -lying, -lay or -lain (tr)
  1. to lie or be placed under or beneath
  2. to be the foundation, cause, or basis ofcareful planning underlies all our decisions
  3. finance to take priority over (another claim, liability, mortgage, etc)a first mortgage underlies a second
  4. to be the root or stem from which (a word) is derived"happy" underlies "happiest"
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Derived Formsunderlier, 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

Word Origin and History for underlay


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

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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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper