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The current version of the vocabulary builder covers over 2720 words & is useful for students preparing for academic English examinations such as SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. Now you can also listen to the pronunciation of words. - Refer a Friend.

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underlying (adj) basic, important, but not clearly seen; lying under something else.

The underlying cause for something is the cause that is most important though it is not clearly seen. The underlying cause of petty thefts is poverty. This means that the important cause, thou not seen, for people stealing small things is poverty. That is, only because a person is poor, do they steal petty things. Underlying also means lying under something else.

  • The underlying principle in death punishment for murder is that the fear of it prevents people from committing murder. The most important, though not clearly understood, reason for capital punishment is that the fear of death punishment will prevent people from committing murders.
  • He was able to see the cloth covering the grass, but was unable to see the underlying snake. As the snake under the cloth did not move, he did not know that it lay under the cloth.
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Last Modified : 11-May 2009
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