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[uhn-der-wurld] /ˈʌn dərˌwɜrld/
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
1600-10; under- + world Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for underworld
  • Even as the hacking underworld has splintered, new threats are emerging.
  • It is an engine of growth in the underworld of the city's informal economy, a vast sector with an astonishing volume of supply.
  • Furthermore, he thought he knew where to look for them: in the weird underworld of quantum mechanics.
  • Researchers have discovered an underworld of genetic exchange among bacteria, one more vast than previously imagined.
  • And each tomb was designed to reflect the underworld in which this rebirth occurred.
  • Mammoth does not glamorize the underworld with garish lighting.
  • Get a macabre look inside the underworld in this gallery of tombs, coffins, and catacombs.
  • His boyish enthusiasm was infectious, and he delighted in telling non-divers about the wilder aspects of his watery underworld.
  • In this case, the underworld is a literal underworld of demons and supernatural beings.
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
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
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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
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