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From under- +‎ tow.


undertow (third-person singular simple present undertows, present participle undertowing, simple past and past participle undertowed)

  1. (transitive) To pull or tow under; drag beneath; pull down.
    • 1914, Denton Jaques Snider, Lincoln at Richmond:
      Off in a gallop the General wheeled vanishing, And sped his steed away into the blue, When Lineoln now alone let go his speech Which had before been undertowed by force, [...]
  2. (transitive) To pull down by, or as by, an undertow.
    • 1998, Richard Gough, David Williams, Ric Allsopp, Performance Research: On Place:
      A sense that the air, a sighting of muddy river, or that outcrop of rock so implacably bland in the light of midday, is undertowed by memory.
    • 2003, Michael T. Leibig, Mike Leibig Traveling in Disguise:
      I sink because I cannot swim, undertowed to the Centre, abandoning all remembrance of the surface toward the cloud of unknowing, without choice I'm pulled.
  3. (intransitive) To flow or behave as an undertow.
    • 1917, The Unpopular review:
      Everybody knows this and acts accordingly; but when you say it, it sounds bad and bold, and makes you uncomfortable to hear it, because the puritan blood is still undertowing in your veins.


undertow (plural undertows)

  1. A short-range flow of water returning seaward from the waves breaking on the shore.
    A strong undertow may sweep a returning swimmer off their feet but it does not carry them far from the shore.
  2. (by extension) A feeling that runs contrary to one's normal one.


See alsoEdit