Definition of undercurrent in English:



  • 1An underlying feeling or influence, especially one that is contrary to the prevailing atmosphere and is not expressed openly.

    ‘racial undercurrents’
    • ‘Collectively, the soldiers let out a singular cry of anger, with undercurrents of anguish.’
    • ‘It's really emotionally-charged, powerful stuff and lots of seething undercurrents come bubbling to the surface.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, although full-scale popular uprisings ended under Louis XIV, there were important undercurrents of popular protest throughout the eighteenth century.’
    • ‘Sabriel felt a strong undercurrent of understanding pass between them, and received the profound impression that she had made a loyal friend for life.’
    • ‘We cannot, must not, live our lives expecting the worst, but neither can we ignore the undercurrent of anxiety flowing through the capital.’
    • ‘The artists' chain of contrasting attitudes reveals debates within society, undercurrents of unrest and anxieties about city life.’
    • ‘There was an undercurrent of anger and jealousy that wouldn't let me admit that I'd done wrong.’
    • ‘The buoyant mood of his audience was certainly out of kilter with the deep undercurrent of frustration evident elsewhere in Bournemouth this week.’
    • ‘The story is a simple one, but a darker undercurrent runs through it.’
    • ‘Athletic and unyielding though they might be, the visitors were not always the cause of the match's nasty undercurrents bubbling to the surface.’
    • ‘As Stephen becomes reluctantly drawn into the lives of his rural neighbours, he becomes a witness to the undercurrents of love, hate and obsession that swirl beneath the superficial tranquillity of the countryside.’
    • ‘When the couples meet for dinner, undercurrents immediately start rippling through the group.’
    • ‘At first, since we have no background on the situation portrayed here, we can't understand what the emotional undercurrents are.’
    • ‘The interaction between doctor and patient is full of emotional undercurrents, including hope, trust, belief, and confidence.’
    • ‘But I think he excels at understanding the undercurrents that should end up on the screen, but doesn't know how to achieve them.’
    • ‘I have no idea, having not really watched it, but there seemed a real undercurrent of anger going down.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, an undercurrent of anxiety ran through the newsroom.’
    • ‘An obsession with hair is a peculiar undercurrent throughout films of this genre.’
    • ‘Under its smooth surface lies the seething undercurrent of teenage insecurity.’
    • ‘After all, anyone can relate to those moments when the calm is broken by the undercurrents of anguish, disappointment and resentment that run through every family.’
    undertone, overtone, suggestion, connotation, implication, intimation, hint, nuance, trace, suspicion, whisper, murmur, touch, tinge
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  • 2A current of water below the surface and moving in a different direction from any surface current.

    • ‘In tidal water the undercurrents may often be going in the opposite direction to the top flow.’
    • ‘The tides and undercurrents are notorious, and even in summer bathing is not recommended.’
    • ‘A Foreign Office spokeswoman said Mr Long drowned after getting into difficulties in the rough water, where there are strong undercurrents.’
    • ‘However, waves generated in deep offshore waters that eventually overtop in shallower water and break on the coast, creating a surf-zone with reversing undercurrents, are fundamentally different from the waves in shallow lakes.’
    • ‘The undercurrent tugged lightly at her, but it was easy to fight.’
    • ‘Locals have said that part of the reservoir is deep and has strong undercurrents.’
    • ‘Thus an undercurrent, called the Western Boundary Undercurrent, travels along the continental slope and rise.’
    • ‘Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there's no undercurrent, just an offshore current.’
    • ‘Tragically that's when they discover the water is freezing cold, with strong undercurrents.’
    • ‘Also, a word of caution to the inexperienced adventurer: make sure you stay away from white waters because that means there are strong undercurrents.’
    undertow, underflow, underswell, underdrift, understream, undertide, underrun
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