[ uhn-der-wurld ]
/ ˈʌn dərˌwɜrld /


the criminal element of human society.
the imagined abode of departed souls or spirits; Hades.
a region below the surface, as of the earth or a body of water.
the opposite side of the earth; the antipodes.
Archaic. the earth.

Origin of underworld

First recorded in 1600–10; under- + world
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for underworld

British Dictionary definitions for underworld


/ (ˈʌndəˌwɜːld) /


  1. criminals and their associates considered collectively
  2. (as modifier)underworld connections
the regions below the earth's surface regarded as the abode of the dead; Hades
Related formsRelated adjectives: chthonian, chthonic
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 underworld



c.1600, "the lower world, Hades," also "the earth," as distinguished from heaven. Cf. German unterwelt, Dutch onderwereld, Danish underverden. Meaning "lower level of society" is first recorded 1890; "criminals and organized crime collectively" is attested from 1900.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper