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 to unbeknownst to us rumors were flying
2 : unknown

Synonyms for unbeknownst


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Unbeknownst is an irregular variant of the older unbeknown, which derives from beknown, an obsolete synonym of known. But for a word with a straightforward history, unbeknownst and the now less common unbeknown have caused quite a stir among usage commentators. In spite of widespread use (including appearances in the writings of Charles Dickens, A. E. Housman, and E. B. White), the grammarian H. W. Fowler in 1926 categorized the two words as "out of use except in dialect or uneducated speech." The following year, G. P. Krapp called them "humorous, colloquial, and dialectal." Our evidence, however, shows that both words are standard even in formal prose.

Examples of unbeknownst in a Sentence

unbeknownst to me, my mother was planning a party
Recent Examples on the Web Ellis was working at the Burger King, 5120 W. Capitol Drive, on Jan. 2 when a robbery — which was apparently staged, unbeknownst to Ellis — unfolded shortly after closing near the drive-thru window, where Harris-Brazell was stationed. Elliot Hughes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 28 Apr. 2022 This could have a number of implications that are unbeknownst to the employee, making this clarity crucial. Mari Kemp, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2022 After the call, and unbeknownst to her husband, Grevas purchased shares of Alder stock in five brokerage accounts under her control, trading nearly every trading day until Lundbeck’s announcement, the criminal complaint states. Brian L. Cox, chicagotribune.com, 12 Apr. 2022 In an auspicious turn of events, MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke discovered her mother had been holding onto Shane’s artwork, unbeknownst to them. Liza Lentini, SPIN, 5 Apr. 2022 But in recent days, unbeknownst to him, Hawkins’s 2013 sentencing became central to the partisan battle over confirming Jackson to the high court. Washington Post, 25 Mar. 2022 Those strategies, unbeknownst to me, had kept me going until adulthood. Taylore Glynn, Allure, 17 Mar. 2022 The narrator of this novel, Piedmont Livingston Kinsolver III, is a doorman at a fancy apartment building on Central Park West, who, unbeknownst to his colleagues, commutes home to a penthouse on upper Fifth Avenue. The New Yorker, 14 Mar. 2022 And so Prentice, unbeknownst to me, had Yvonne actually talk to me as Yvonne and say words to me. E. Alex Jung, Vulture, 27 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of unbeknownst was in 1636

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Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Unbeknownst.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unbeknownst. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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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

Nglish: Translation of unbeknownst for Spanish Speakers


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