Definition of underlying adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

      

    underlying

     adjective
    adjective
    BrE BrE//ˌʌndəˈlaɪɪŋ//
     
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˌʌndərˈlaɪɪŋ//
     
    [only before noun]
     
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  1. 1important in a situation but not always easily noticed or stated clearly The underlying assumption is that the amount of money available is limited. Unemployment may be an underlying cause of the rising crime rate.
  2. 2existing under the surface of something else the underlying rock formation
  3. see also underlie
    Extra examples Despite this month’s disappointing figures, the underlying trend is healthy. He has no illusions about the underlying reality of army life. She was not sure what his underlying motives were. The joke did not obscure the underlying seriousness of her point. The underlying reasons for these differences will be explored in depth in the next chapter. Their policies have resulted in a definite underlying improvement in the economy.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: underlying

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