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.
underwear, especially women's underwear.
the legs.

1480–90; under + pin + -ing1

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World English Dictionary
underpinning (ˈʌndəˌpɪnɪŋ)
a structure of masonry, concrete, etc, placed beneath a wall to provide support

underpinnings (ˈʌndəˌpɪnɪŋz)
pl n
any supporting structure or system

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1489, "action of supporting or strengthening from beneath," from under + pp. of pin (v.). Fig. sense of "prop, support" is recorded from 1589.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang Dictionary

underpinnings definition

  1. n.
    the legs. : He has good underpinnings—ought to be able to run faster. , With underpinnings like that, he ought to be able to win the marathon.
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.
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Example sentences
Genetics came along and knocked the underpinnings out from under the biological
  constructions of race.
What seems increasingly clear, however, is that the drive to overeat has strong
  biological underpinnings.
More common characteristics such as loyalty, tenaciousness, or the instinct to
  herd clearly have genetic underpinnings.
The presentation aimed to introduce the historical and cultural underpinnings
  of tattoo art.
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