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[uhn-der-lahy] /ˌʌn dərˈlaɪ/
verb (used with object), underlay, underlain, underlying.
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for underlie
  • And these scientists are investigating the physical responses that underlie the functioning of our fingers and skin.
  • Primary heat exchange occurs through specialized heat exchange-vascular structures that underlie the non-insulated body surfaces.
  • In strict science all persons underlie the same condition of an infinite remoteness.
  • In short, the necessity of philosophy follows from the genuineness of the problems that underlie religion.
  • Medical researchers will track the tiny gene changes that underlie cancer.
  • The first is the nature of the relationships that underlie them.
  • To some extent, new federal reporting requirements underlie the apparent jump in compensation.
  • Despite the importance of this disorder, surprisingly little is known about what brain mechanisms might underlie it.
  • Such state-matching, or emotional contagion, may underlie all empathic responses.
  • It might also ward off some of the genetic errors that underlie cancer and aging.
British Dictionary definitions for underlie


verb (transitive) -lies, -lying, -lay, -lain
to lie or be placed under or beneath
to be the foundation, cause, or basis of: careful 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 Forms
underlier, 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
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Word Origin and History for underlie

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
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