Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Language: Old English
Origin: beneothan, from neothan 'below'

beneath

adverb, preposition
     
be‧neath W2 formal
1 in or to a lower position than something, or directly under something [= underneath]:
The dolphins disappeared beneath the waves.
Jo enjoyed feeling the warm sand beneath her feet.
He was standing on the bridge looking at the river beneath.
Some roofs collapsed beneath the weight of (=unable to support the weight of) so much snow.
see usage note under
2 covered by something:
Shiona shivered beneath the bedclothes.
3 used to say that someone's real character or feelings are not shown because their appearance or behaviour is different [= underneath]:
Dave sensed that something more sinister lay beneath the woman's cheerful exterior.
Beneath the surface she was angry.
4 not good enough or suitable for someone:
She acts as if even speaking to us is beneath her.
He felt it would be beneath his dignity to comment.
His mother felt he was marrying beneath him (=marrying someone who was not good enough).
I consider such behaviour to be beneath contempt (=so bad you have no respect for the person involved).
5 in a lower, less important rank or job than someone else [= below]
WORD CHOICE: WORD CHOICE:

under, underneath, below, beneath
Under is the usual way to say that one thing is at a lower level than another, or is covered by it Your shoes are under the table. He lay under a blanket.Under is nearly always used as a preposition (followed by a noun).Underneath has a similar meaning to under, and is used especially when something is hidden or covered a box underneath the floorboardsIt can also be used as an adverb She lifted the cover and peeped underneath.Below is used when one thing is at a much lower level than another, and can be a preposition or an adverb the apartment below ours Mist lay in the valley below.Beneath can be used in the same ways as under and below, but is a more literary or formal word beneath the silvery moon the cliff, and the ocean beneathSee also under

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