9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[uhn-der-tohn] /ˈʌn dərˌtoʊn/
a low or subdued tone:
to speak in undertones.
an unobtrusive or background sound:
an undertone of static from the receiver.
an underlying quality or element; undercurrent:
There was an undertone of regret in his refusal.
a subdued color; a color modified by an underlying color.
Origin of undertone
1800-10; under- + tone Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for undertone
  • Others also perceived a mercantilist undertone in the president's speech, and not for no reason.
  • They stepped aside and the policeman spoke in an undertone, urging something strongly.
  • The undertone is that they're accelerating but that's an unjustified conclusion from the data.
  • The difference, however, is in the moralistic undertone usually sensed in the former.
  • Anticipation was obvious in people's faces, and the talk became a sort of nervous undertone.
  • Shea's style combines a briskly practical surface with a lyrical undertone.
  • The revolutionary undertone was appropriate, for this was a subversive new model in the staid world of cause marketing.
  • Despite the good cheer, there's a wistful undertone to the proceedings.
  • News from abroad unquestionably played a big part in the strong undertone to the foreign exchange market of yesterday.
  • The flavor was vaguely green and spicy, sweet with a slight smoky undertone.
British Dictionary definitions for undertone


a quiet or hushed tone of voice
an underlying tone or suggestion in words or actions: his offer has undertones of dishonesty
a pale or subdued colour
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 undertone

1762, "low or subdued tone," from under + tone. Figurative sense of "undercurrent of feelings, etc.," is attested from 1861.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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