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From under- +‎ mine.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌʌn.dəˈmaɪn/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌʌn.dɚˈmaɪn/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪn


undermine (third-person singular simple present undermines, present participle undermining, simple past and past participle undermined)

  1. To dig underneath (something), to make a passage for destructive or military purposes; to sap. [from 14th c.]
    • 2009, Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin, published 2010, page 312:
      Martin, for instance, had on one occasion undermined a tree sacred to old gods, then stood in the path of its fall, but forced it to fall elsewhere by making the sign of the Cross.
  2. (figurative) To weaken or work against; to hinder, sabotage. [from 15th c.]
    The war efforts were undermined by the constant bickering between the allies.
    • 2012 April 19, Josh Halliday, “Free speech haven or lawless cesspool – can the internet be civilised?”, in the Guardian:
      The growing use of social media to spread anger and dissent in the Arab world has been hailed by western governments as one of the chief justifications for a completely unfettered internet. The US is reportedly funding the secret rollout of technology in Iran in an effort to undermine internet censors in the country.
    • 2022 January 26, “Network News: DfT awaits verdict on COVID 'partygate' scandal”, in RAIL, number 949, page 6:
      The 'partygate' controversy has played a major part in undermining the credibility of Boris Johnson and his Government and has led to calls from senior MPs for him to resign.
  3. To erode the base or foundation of something, e.g. by the action of water.
    • 2020 August 26, “Network News: Major flood damage severs key Edinburgh-Glasgow rail artery”, in Rail, page 21:
      Services between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley via Falkirk High are currently suspended, following a 30-metre breach of the Union Canal that occurred on August 12 after torrential rain and thunderstorms. The thousands of gallons of water that cascaded onto the railway line below washed away track, ballast and overhead line equipment, and undermined embankments along a 300-metre section of Scotland's busiest rail link.
  4. (philosophy) To regard an object as the sum of the parts that compose it, in object-oriented ontology.
    Coordinate term: overmine
    • 2022, Nicholas Gayle, Conrad and the Being of the World, page 25:
      We can even go further: when we consider an object in everyday life we do not usually just undermine or overmine it as if it demanded an either/or approach, but rather we run the two processes in tandem: duomining, as Harman labels it.



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