I. preposition 1. extending or directly underneath • a 2.5-mile tunnel beneath the Alps.
2. underneath so as to be hidden, covered, or protected • the ancient city has lain hidden beneath the sea for 2,000 years.
3. at a lower level or layer than • beneath this floor there’s a cellar
• her eyes had dark shadows beneath them.
4. lower in grade or rank than • he was relegated to the rank beneath theirs.
5. considered of lower status or worth than • she’s in love with a man who is rather beneath her.
6. behind (a physical surface) • they found another layer beneath the stucco.
7. hidden behind (an appearance) • beneath the gloss of success was a tragic private life.
II. adverb 1. extending or directly underneath something • a house built on stilts to allow air to circulate beneath.
2. at a lower level or layer • upper layers can be removed to reveal internal parts beneath.
3. hidden behind an appearance • the smile revealed the evil beneath.
– origin Old English binithan, bineothan, from bi (see by) + nithan, neothan ‘below’, of Germanic origin; related to nether.