From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

underlying \un`der*ly"ing\, a.
   1. Lying under or beneath; as, the underlying strata of a
      [1913 Webster]

   2. Hence: Fundamental; basic; as, underlying principles;
      underlying causes.
      [1913 Webster +PJC]

   3. Implicit; not immediately obvious; requiring careful
      scrutiny to discover; as, the underlying sarcasm in her
      seemingly innocuous remark..
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