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

Related Words for underworld

mob, syndicate, gangland, abyss, riffraff, racket, Mafia, felonry

Examples from the Web for underworld

Contemporary Examples of underworld

Historical Examples of underworld

  • It was to him preposterous, for she was one of that underworld against which he was ruthlessly at war.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • She died of the sting, and was lost to him in the Underworld.

    Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew

    Josephine Preston Peabody

  • He would also conduct through his underworld any one who had the leisure and inclination.

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • It means what it meant to Orpheus when he followed Eurydice to the underworld.

    Glory of Youth

    Temple Bailey

  • "Well, let us get busy with the underworld of Japan," Jack said.

British Dictionary definitions for underworld



  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