Ulterior motive

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Ulterior motive is a phrase that has been in use since the eighteenth century. We will examine the meaning of the expression ulterior motive, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

An ulterior motive is a hidden agenda, a secret reason that someone does or says something. The expression ulterior motive almost always carries a negative connotation, as an ulterior motive is usually one that is only beneficial to that person. The term ulterior motive first appeared in the 1730s, from the Latin word ulterior, meaning remote or distant, and the Latin word motivus, meaning to move. The plural form of ulterior motive is ulterior motives. The word ulterior is usually paired with the word motive, however it may be used in other phrases such as ulterior reason or ulterior meaning.


“The common element is they attribute to CBA an ulterior motive to systematically default loans,” he said. (The Brisbane Times)

Hodge told the commission he had investigated the “clawback ulterior motive theory” – the claim that CBA deliberately impaired Bankwest loans so it could “clawback” the amount of the impairment from HBOS under the price adjustment mechanism in the sale contract between CBA and HBOS – but he found no evidence for the theory. (The Guardian)

The official also expressed doubt about the ulterior motive behind the US move to ask for dialogue with the DPRK and “what the US has calculated to gain from that.” (The Global Times)

“The notice for the acquisition of the said land was wrongly issued without intimation to the L&DO, the lessor, in this case, presumably with some ulterior motive,” the report stated. (The Daily News & Analysis)