un·​be·​knownst | \ ˌən-bi-ˈnōn(t)st How to pronounce unbeknownst (audio) \
variants: or less commonly unbeknown \ ˌən-​bi-​ˈnōn How to pronounce unbeknownst (audio) \

Definition of unbeknownst

1 : happening or existing without the knowledge of someone specified usually used with tounbeknownst to us rumors were flying

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for unbeknownst


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

Unbeknownst derives from beknown, an obsolete synonym of known. But for a word with a straightforward history, unbeknownst and its older and less common variant unbeknown have created quite a flap among usage commentators. Despite widespread use (including appearances in the writings of Charles Dickens, A.E. Housman, and E.B. White), the two words have been called everything from "obsolete" to "vulgar." Our evidence, however, shows that both can be considered standard.

Examples of unbeknownst in a Sentence

unbeknownst to me, my mother was planning a party
Recent Examples on the Web Kanye was, unbeknownst to him, recording the moment. Lars Brandle, Billboard, "Paul McCartney Talks New Album, Spotify and Kanye West," 18 Dec. 2020 Apparently unbeknownst to Colon-Lopez, who responded only indirectly to Champ, the Defense Department not only carries out granular surveys about discrimination but has been legally-required to do so since the 1990s. NBC News, "The Pentagon has sat on racial discrimination survey data for years," 18 Dec. 2020 Because affability, unbeknownst to anybody, also selects for intelligence. Daniel Dorsa, Smithsonian Magazine, "The New Science of Our Ancient Bond With Dogs," 17 Nov. 2020 It's cut into heroin or cocaine or pressed into pills often unbeknownst to those looking for a high. Freep.com, "In darkness of pandemic, Wyandotte man's drug addiction got worse — and then deadly," 25 Oct. 2020 Ursula performs onstage with a live cougar and (unbeknownst to Gig) shares her favors with one of the robber barons who control Spokane. Maureen Corrigan, WSJ, "‘The Cold Millions’ Review: The Men That Don’t Fit In," 23 Oct. 2020 Williams and Burdett claim Timothy, who has been charged as well, did that for myriad clients, unbeknownst to them. John Simerman, NOLA.com, "IRS agents on hot seat as City Councilman Jason Williams attacks tax fraud case as 'vindictive'," 22 Oct. 2020 Prevagen shows how a dietary supplement can thrive on the market for years despite accumulating dozens of violations and raising alarm among government regulators, all unbeknownst to most consumers. Chiara Eisner, Wired, "Americans Took Prevagen for Years—as the FDA Questioned Its Safety," 21 Oct. 2020 Then Mullen would turn around and sell the properties to Dufrene, unbeknownst to the financial institutions or original sellers of the buildings, by forging financial information and inflating the properties' appraisals. Katelyn Umholtz, NOLA.com, "Destrehan man charged in allegedly laundering millions from banks into Mississippi hotels," 20 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unbeknownst.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of unbeknownst

1636, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for unbeknownst

un- entry 1 + obsolete English beknown known; unbeknownst, irregular from unbeknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unbeknownst

Time Traveler for unbeknownst

Time Traveler

The first known use of unbeknownst was in 1636

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about unbeknownst

Statistics for unbeknownst

Last Updated

9 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unbeknownst.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unbeknownst. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unbeknownst


un·​be·​knownst | \ ˌən-bi-ˈnōnst How to pronounce unbeknownst (audio) \
variants: also unbeknown \ -​ˈnōn \

Kids Definition of unbeknownst

: happening without someone's knowledge : unknown Unbeknownst to him, we were planning a surprise party.

More from Merriam-Webster on unbeknownst

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unbeknownst

Nglish: Translation of unbeknownst for Spanish Speakers

Comments on unbeknownst

What made you want to look up unbeknownst? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!