a system of supports beneath a wall or the like.
Often underpinnings. a foundation or basis: to uncover the emotional underpinnings of an illness.
underpinnings, Informal.
  1. underwear, especially women's underwear.
  2. the legs.

Origin of underpinning

First recorded in 1480–90; under + pin + -ing1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for underpinnings

Contemporary Examples of underpinnings

Historical Examples of underpinnings

  • You will have cut the underpinnings from beneath the American dollar.

    Damned If You Don't

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • Clank, the presses begin again, and all afternoon I iron gentlemen's underpinnings.

    Working With the Working Woman

    Cornelia Stratton Parker

  • The gate of the nameless mausoleum had not been opened for many years, and the wind had heaped the dirt against the underpinnings.

    The Enemies of Women

    Vicente Blasco Ibez

  • That ship you talked of is awfully plated up topside, but all her underpinnings are pretty weak.

    A Fleet in Being

    Rudyard Kipling

British Dictionary definitions for underpinnings


pl n

any supporting structure or system



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



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper