Definition of arrière-pensée in English:



  • A concealed thought or intention; an ulterior motive.

    • ‘In one sphere the French did try genuinely to develop their liberating and civilizing mission unencumbered by economic and military considerations, if not totally free of the arrière-pensée of French greatness.’
    • ‘Too often, when donor governments decide which of your activities to fund, there is a flagrant political arrière-pensée.’
    • ‘Following earlier work of A. W. Verrall and Philip Vellacott, she postulates that Euripides, while composing the plot of his tragedies, catered for at least two audiences: the ordinary one, which would take things on stage literally, and a more sophisticated one, which would be able to understand hidden allusions or subtle arrière-pensées.’
    • ‘But this military judgement cloaked political arrière-pensées.’
    • ‘People of action despise thinking of any sort, and rightly so, because the more they think, the more their actions are beset by doubts and arrière-pensées.’
    • ‘He appreciated Guimera because of his directness, absence of complexes and arrière-pensées - refreshing change, he thought, from the society of his youth. - Your old man, he said to Casandra, as soon as they were alone for a moment, is so normal, he's almost animal.’


Early 19th century: French, literally behind thought.