Definition of ulterior in US English:



  • 1Existing beyond what is obvious or admitted; intentionally hidden.

    ‘could there be an ulterior motive behind his request?’
    • ‘Is he really behind Jill and her dream to fulfill her dead husband's destiny, or is there an ulterior motive behind his caring compassion?’
    • ‘But Drew had to admit she also had a more selfish, ulterior motive for not going.’
    • ‘If this is not acceptable to the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the country, then Protestants may be led to conclude that there is an ulterior motive behind all the bluster.’
    • ‘Here Charlie admits to an ulterior, safety-related, motive.’
    • ‘But the rest of you, if you are real and proper visitors with no ulterior motives or hidden agendas, welcome, pull up a chair and stay a while.’
    • ‘A quick query with the UCB revealed no obviously ulterior motive - they don't even know when the touring squad for Sri Lanka will be announced.’
    • ‘Be wary of anything he says, because a good portion of it has an ulterior motive behind it that will not lead to marriage.’
    • ‘When the intentions are not good and there are ulterior motives lurking behind, then it is detrimental to religion.’
    • ‘Seeing as though the cat was a gift from Renee, I think perhaps that there was an ulterior motive behind the gift.’
    • ‘Town mayor Councillor Martin Leathley said there was no ulterior motive behind the change of job title.’
    • ‘You seem to have some ulterior motive behind asking this, and I doubt that it was to put any of us in harm's way, since you're too good for that.’
    • ‘It would be easier to dismiss the whole exercise if there were an obvious ulterior motive.’
    • ‘There isn't any ulterior motive behind any of the decisions we make.’
    • ‘Has it ever occurred to anyone the ulterior motive behind these shows?’
    • ‘The ulterior motive behind the festival facade is not hard to uncover.’
    • ‘But those are clichés only to those of cynical persuasion who assume that an ulterior motive lurks behind every altruistic act.’
    • ‘It is as close as the wily McGahern will get to admitting ulterior motives for writing such a personal book.’
    • ‘If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.’
    • ‘To be completely honest, there was no ulterior motive behind the act whatsoever.’
    • ‘All this doesn't necessarily mean there's no ulterior motive behind the Corning action.’
    secondary, underlying, undisclosed, undivulged, unexpressed, unapparent, under wraps, unrevealed, concealed, hidden, covert, secret, personal, private, selfish
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    1. 1.1 Beyond what is immediate or present; coming in the future.
      ‘ulterior pay promised to the mariners’
      • ‘Thus, if a person enters with an ulterior intent, the entry will generally be trespassory unless the occupier has granted permission to enter for that purpose.’


Mid 17th century: from Latin, literally ‘further, more distant’.