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Motivation for some action or actions that is guided by selfishness or moral depravity. It is clear now that his decision to marry into her wealthy family was led purely by base motives. I don't believe the defendant had any base motives in this case. I think she was well-intentioned but naïve about the repercussions of her actions.
cliché A clandestine purpose for one's actions, often hidden behind a façade of generosity or magnanimity. At first we thought she genuinely wanted to help our organization's agenda, but it soon became clear that she had some ulterior motive for digging up information on the other company's CEO. A: "You want to spend your whole weekend helping me move out of my apartment? What's the catch?" B: "What, can't I just want to help out my baby brother? You act as if I've got an ulterior motive or something!"
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
ulterior motive, an
A hidden purpose, a secret reason for saying or doing something. The adjective ulterior originally meant “beyond” or “more distant,” a usage taken from the Latin and dating from the mid-1600s. Less than a century later it began to be used more specifically to mean “beyond what is said or evident.” It then was combined with several nouns—ulterior intentions, ulterior designs, ulterior purpose. Its frequent combination with motive is more recent.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer