under (prep., adv.)

Old English under (prep.) "beneath, among, before, in the presence of, in subjection to, under the rule of, by means of," also, as an adverb, "beneath, below, underneath," expressing position with reference to that which is above, from Proto-Germanic *under- (source also of Old Frisian under, Dutch onder, Old High German untar, German unter, Old Norse undir, Gothic undar), from PIE *ndher- "under" (source also of Sanskrit adhah "below;" Avestan athara- "lower;" Latin infernus "lower," infra "below").

Productive as a prefix in Old English, as in German and Scandinavian (often forming words modeled on Latin ones in sub-). Notion of "inferior in rank, position, etc." was present in Old English. With reference to standards, "less than in age, price, value," etc., late 14c. As an adjective, "lower in position; lower in rank or degree" from 13c. Also used in Old English as a preposition meaning "between, among," as still in under these circumstances, etc. (though this may be an entirely separate root; see understand).

Under the weather "indisposed" is from 1810. Under the table is from 1913 in the sense of "very drunk," 1940s in sense of "illegal" (under-board "dishonest" is from c. 1600). To keep something under (one's) hat "secret" is from 1885; to have something under (one's) nose "in plain sight" is from 1540s; to speak under (one's) breath "in a low voice" is attested from 1832.

updated on August 23, 2020

Definitions of under from WordNet
under (adv.)
down to defeat, death, or ruin;
their competitors went under
under (adv.)
through a range downward;
children six and under will be admitted free
under (adv.)
into unconsciousness;
this will put the patient under
under (adv.)
in or into a state of subordination or subjugation;
we must keep our disappointment under
under (adv.)
below some quantity or limit;
fifty dollars or under
under (adv.)
below the horizon;
the sun went under
under (adv.)
down below;
get under quickly!
under (adv.)
further down;
see under for further discussion
Synonyms: below
under (adj.)
lower in rank, power, or authority;
an under secretary
under (adj.)
located below or beneath something else;
the under parts of a machine
Synonyms: nether
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