Meaning of “underlying” in the English Dictionary

"underlying" in British English

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underlyingadjective [ before noun ]

uk /ˌʌn.dəˈlaɪ.ɪŋ/ us /ˌʌn.dɚˈlaɪ.ɪŋ/

underlying adjective [ before noun ] (NOT OBVIOUS)

C2 real but not immediately obvious:

And what might be the underlying significance of these supposedly random acts?

More examples

  • On the surface it's a very funny novel but it does have a more serious underlying theme.
  • The underlying message of the film is that love transcends everything else.
  • We need to tackle the underlying causes of poverty and suffering.
  • It is important to look at all the underlying causes of the conflict.
  • An underlying pessimism infuses all her novels.

underlying adjective [ before noun ] (UNDER)

positioned under the surface of something:

The currents are affected by the shape of the underlying rocks.

(Definition of “underlying” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"underlying" in American English

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underlyingadjective [ not gradable ]

us /ˌʌn·dərˈlɑɪ·ɪŋ/

real but not immediately obvious:

The investigation focused on the underlying causes of the fire.

(Definition of “underlying” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"underlying" in Business English

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underlyingadjective [ before noun ]

uk /ˌʌndəˈlaɪɪŋ/ us

FINANCE, STOCK MARKET used to describe the shares, etc. to which something such as an option (= the right to buy or sell something in the future) relates:

The option was sold requiring payment against delivery of the underlying security.

ACCOUNTING, FINANCE used to describe the basic level or amount of something before anything else is added or taken away:

Underlying conditions are favourable.
They underestimated their underlying costs and ended up losing a lot of money.
Last year the company had underlying earnings of $10.6m on $34m sales.

(Definition of “underlying” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)