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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Some day he must face death, and stand before the Laws of the underworld.

    Parallel Paths Thomas William Rolleston
  • She died of the sting, and was lost to him in the underworld.

    Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew Josephine Preston Peabody
  • The surface of the earth is ruled by a mighty being whose sway extends to the underworld and over death, fire, and the fields.

    The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi Hattie Greene Lockett
  • He would also conduct through his underworld any one who had the leisure and inclination.

    The Book of Khalid Ameen Rihani
  • She sat in a hall in the underworld to hear the confessions of the dead, the door of which was guarded by Anubis.

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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