See more synonyms for underpinning on Thesaurus.com
  1. a system of supports beneath a wall or the like.
  2. Often underpinnings. a foundation or basis: to uncover the emotional underpinnings of an illness.
  3. underpinnings, Informal.
    1. underwear, especially women's underwear.
    2. the legs.

Origin of underpinning

First recorded in 1480–90; under + pin + -ing1


verb (used with object), un·der·pinned, un·der·pin·ning.
  1. to prop up or support from below; strengthen, as by reinforcing a foundation.
  2. to replace or strengthen the foundation of (a building or the like).
  3. to furnish a foundation for; corroborate: The author's conclusions are underpinned by references to experimental findings.

Origin of underpin

First recorded in 1515–25; under- + pin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of underpinning

British Dictionary definitions for underpinning


  1. a structure of masonry, concrete, etc, placed beneath a wall to provide support


verb -pins, -pinning or -pinned (tr)
  1. to support from beneath, esp by a prop, while avoiding damaging or weakening the superstructureto underpin a wall
  2. to give corroboration, strength, or support to
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 underpinning

late 15c., "action of supporting or strengthening from beneath," from under + present participle of pin (v.). Figurative sense of "prop, support" is recorded from 1580s.



1520s (figurative); 1530s (literal), from under + pin (v.). Related: Underpinned; underpinning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper