- A concealed thought or intention; an ulterior motive.
“I invited my mother over for coffee, but my arrière-pensée was to get her out of the house so my sisters could set up the surprise party.”
“My colleague seems like an open book, but I often suspect he has an arrière-pensée.”
“Is there an arrière-pensée behind this gift?”
French, early 17th century
Why this word?
Translated literally from French, “arrière-pensée” means “behind thought.” Used in English, this term means “ulterior motive,” or perhaps implies that there’s an underlying intention behind something. An ulterior motive usually has a negative connotation attached to it, but an arrière-pensée doesn’t need one — perhaps there’s just a secondary intention, and it may even be subconscious.
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