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ulterior (adj) (reason or purpose) hidden and not made known to others.

When a person has an ulterior motive or purpose for doing something, they have some secret reason for doing it. It is of advantage to them. If someone with an ulterior motive helps you, they help you for a secret reason, and because it is of advantage to them. The sales assistant flattering your good looks has the ulterior motive of making you buy his goods. They do not of course reveal it to you.

  • Jonathan is being very nice to me nowadays. Has he any ulterior motive? Is it advantageous to him someway not known to me, if he is nice to me?
  • Countries support for democracy in Iraq is not merely due to their enthusiasm for democracy. It has an ulterior motive. It wants to make sure of cheap oil supplies from Iraq.
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Last Modified : 11-May 2009
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