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undertow

[uhn-der-toh] /ˈʌn dərˌtoʊ/
noun
1.
the seaward, subsurface flow or draft of water from waves breaking on a beach.
2.
any strong current below the surface of a body of water, moving in a direction different from that of the surface current.
Origin of undertow
1810-1820
1810-20; under- + tow1
Synonyms
2. Undertow, underset, riptide are terms for a usually strong undercurrent in the ocean, contrary to the direction of surface water. Undertow and another nautical term, underset (a set or current contrary to the general set of the water, or contrary to the wind), came into notice early in the 19th century. The former is still in general use along the Atlantic coast; the latter now less well known. Rip, in use in the U.S. by the late 18th century, properly means a violently disturbed place in a body of water, usually by the meeting of opposing tides. Of recent years, in the form riptide, it has also been used, especially on the Pacific coast, to mean much the same as undertow, dangerous to bathers where heavy surf prevails.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for undertow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Every man swam towards a place where a small point of land caused a sort of eddy and checked the force of the undertow.

    Lost in the Forest R.M. Ballantyne
  • He was almost within her reach, when the undertow swept him back.

  • All day there had been in my mind a sort of undertow of resentment at the tacit decision that I ought not to want to go ashore.

    Aliens William McFee
  • The undertow writhed about their legs, jerked at them wrathfully.

    Heart of the Blue Ridge Waldron Baily
  • The Captain dug his toes into the sand and braced himself as the undertow sucked back.

    Cap'n Eri Joseph Crosby Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for undertow

undertow

/ˈʌndəˌtəʊ/
noun
1.
the seaward undercurrent following the breaking of a wave on the beach
2.
any strong undercurrent flowing in a different direction from the surface current
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 undertow
n.

1798, from under + tow (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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undertow in Science
undertow
  (ŭn'dər-tō')   
An underwater current flowing strongly away from shore. Undertows are generally caused by the seaward return of water from waves that have broken against the shore.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Word Value for undertow

12
14
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