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

Definition of unbeknownst

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

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Synonyms for unbeknownst


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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 Gibson is a dude who looks amazingly like her fiance who vanished 15 years before (and unbeknownst to her, entered the witness protection program after revealing a dirty DEA agent). Julie Hinds, Freep.com, "These are the 50 most essential movies set in Michigan," 12 Dec. 2019 Johnson has already tried out the creations on her star clients, unbeknownst to them and fans at the time. Lindsay Weinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "Alicia Keys' Hairstylist Nai'vasha Johnson Launches Haircare Brand Curl Queen," 7 Sep. 2019 Apparently unbeknownst to Vzglad, the aircraft in question was flight MH17. Amy Knight, The New York Review of Books, "Flight MH17: Will Russia Get Away With It?," 19 Nov. 2014 Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Elizabeth, chief of staff Russell Jackson (Zeljko Ivanek) can’t resist using the wedding as a diplomatic chip, dangling an invitation to a Venezuelan resistance leader to forestall a coup. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "'Madam Secretary' finale celebration: A wedding, an amendment, soccer champs, celeb cameos," 9 Dec. 2019 But some get a little messier over time—unbeknownst to their owner. Katherine Ellen Foley, Quartz, "How the human brain stays young even as we age," 19 Nov. 2019 And unbeknownst to those filing into Delmar Stadium on Friday, Lamar's run of 61 consecutive district wins turns exactly 10 years and two days old. Adam Coleman, Houston Chronicle, "Westside sets out to test Lamar's district win streak," 2 Oct. 2019 Legal, according to the court Mr. Mukalazi challenged Kehong’s occupation of the wetland, but a local court ruled that his family’s lease had expired when – unbeknownst to him – a land broker secured the new 99-year lease and sold it on to Kehong. Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor, "Big promises, few results: Chinese farms falter in Uganda," 17 Sep. 2019 The unbeknownst muse lent her stylishness to the evening, designing the photogenic dinner table. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Athena Calderone Set the Chicest Table for the Daily Harvest x Amber Waves Farm Dinner," 15 July 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for unbeknownst

Time Traveler

The first known use of unbeknownst was in 1636

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unbeknownst.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unbeknownst?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=u&file=unbekn01. Accessed 29 Jan. 2020.

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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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on unbeknownst

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unbeknownst

Spanish Central: Translation of 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).


to assert without proof or before proving

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