un·​equal | \ˌən-ˈē-kwəl \

Definition of unequal 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : not of the same measurement, quantity, or number as another

b : not like or not the same as another in degree, worth, or status

2 : not uniform : variable, uneven

3a : badly balanced or matched an unequal contest

b : contracted between unequals unequal marriages

c archaic : not equable

4 archaic : not equitable : unjust

5 : inadequate, insufficient unequal to the task



Definition of unequal (Entry 2 of 3)

: one that is not equal to another



Definition of unequal (Entry 3 of 3)


: in an unequal manner unequal match'd— William Shakespeare

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Other Words from unequal


unequally \ ˌən-​ˈē-​kwə-​lē \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for unequal

Synonyms: Adjective

changing, erratic, fluctuating, irregular, uneven, unstable, unsteady, varying

Antonyms: Adjective

changeless, constant, stable, steady, unchanging, unvarying

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Examples of unequal in a Sentence


unequal academic standards for male and female students unequal justice based on race

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In 1954, a unanimous US Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision, which held that racially segregated public schools were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 17 May 2018 Walker’s cuts to education spending, some of the deepest in the nation, made an already unequal system worse, effectively pitting school districts and entire communities against one another. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "A new public education movement is emerging in Wisconsin, a rebuke to Gov. Walker’s war on labor and school privatization," 3 July 2018 One may have lots of disposable income, while the other may have to rely on taxable distributions. Out-of-pocket health-care costs are likely to increase—and be unequal. Cheryl Winokur Munk, WSJ, "Separate Finances Can Be a Lot Trickier for Couples in Retirement," 10 June 2018 This would recognize how different networks of people have often worked together in scientific projects and the cultural exchanges that helped them–even if those exchanges were unequal and exploitative. Rohan Deb Roy, Smithsonian, "Science Still Bears the Fingerprints of Colonialism," 10 Apr. 2018 Distribute these tones in unequal doses–blue is undoubtedly the least polarizing of the three, and the lemons in the dress call to the tips and edges of these red blooms. Putnam & Putnam, Harper's BAZAAR, "Introducing: The Wedding Colors For Spring," 17 Jan. 2017 Get our daily newsletter That conforms to the pattern of this unequal struggle. The Economist, "Daniel Ortega is causing a bloodbath in Nicaragua," 12 July 2018 The unequal trading relationship, in Mr. Trump’s view, is a primary element in China’s rapid rise on the world stage. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "How Trump Plans to Change the World," 9 July 2018 The same Alan Dershowitz has been hyper-critical of Black Lives Matter, saying the movement focuses too much attention on the unequal treatment of black people while not focusing enough on due process for the white police officers that kill them. Monique Judge, The Root, "Rich White People Shunning Other Rich White People For Supporting Donald Trump Is Hilarious," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unequal.' 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 unequal


1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1600, in the meaning defined above


1602, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for unequal

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unequal

The first known use of unequal was in 1565

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English Language Learners Definition of unequal

: not the same in a way that is unfair : giving more advantages, power, etc., to some people and less to other people for unfair reasons

: different in number, degree, quality, size, etc.

: not able to do what is needed


un·​equal | \ˌən-ˈē-kwəl \

Kids Definition of unequal

1 : not alike (as in size or value)

2 : badly balanced or matched an unequal fight

3 : not having the needed abilities They proved unequal to the task.

Other Words from unequal

unequally adverb

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