See more synonyms for underlying on Thesaurus.com
  1. lying or situated beneath, as a substratum.
  2. fundamental; basic: the underlying cause of their discontent.
  3. implicit; discoverable only by close scrutiny or analysis: an underlying seriousness in his witticisms.
  4. (of a claim, mortgage, etc.) taking precedence; anterior; prior.
  5. Linguistics. belonging to an earlier stage in the transformational derivation of a sentence or other structure; belonging to the deep structure.

Origin of underlying

First recorded in 1605–15; underlie + -ing2


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.

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

Examples from the Web for underlying

Contemporary Examples of underlying

Historical Examples of underlying

British Dictionary definitions for underlying


  1. concealed but detectableunderlying guilt
  2. fundamental; basic
  3. lying under
  4. finance (of a claim, liability, etc) taking precedence; prior


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"
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 underlying



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