undercurrent

An undercurrent is a mood or atmosphere just below the surface, like the undercurrent of anxiety in your school during final exams.

The figurative meaning of undercurrent is more common than its literal definition, "an ocean current that runs beneath the surface of the water." Another word for this kind of undercurrent is a "subsurface current." When most of us use the word undercurrent, however, we're talking about a general state of mind, something that subtly influences the way people feel, like the undercurrent of suspense running through a good horror movie.

Definitions of undercurrent
  1. noun
    a subdued emotional quality underlying an utterance; implicit meaning
    synonyms: undertone
    see moresee less
    type of:
    meaning, substance
    the idea that is intended
  2. noun
    a current below the surface of a fluid
    synonyms: undertide
    see moresee less
    types:
    sea purse, sea puss, sea-poose, sea-purse, sea-puss, undertow
    the seaward undercurrent created after waves have broken on the shore
    type of:
    current, stream
    a steady flow of a fluid (usually from natural causes)
Word Family
EDITOR’S CHOICE

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.

SAT/PSAT

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week

TOEFL

$29.95
  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week