[ uhn-der-lahy-ing ]
/ ˈʌn dərˌlaɪ ɪŋ /


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

Nearby words

  1. underlie,
  2. underline,
  3. underlinen,
  4. underling,
  5. underlit,
  6. undermanned,
  7. undermentioned,
  8. undermine,
  9. undermining ulcer,
  10. undermodulate

Origin of underlying

First recorded in 1605–15; underlie + -ing2


[ uhn-der-lahy ]
/ ˌʌn dərˈlaɪ /

verb (used with object), un·der·lay, un·der·lain, un·der·ly·ing.

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.

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for underlying

British Dictionary definitions for underlying


/ (ˌʌndəˈlaɪɪŋ) /


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


/ (ˌʌndəˈlaɪ) /

verb -lies, -lying, -lay or -lain (tr)

to lie or be placed under or beneath
to be the foundation, cause, or basis ofcareful 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 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