un·​equal | \ ˌən-ˈē-kwəl How to pronounce unequal (audio) \

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 How to pronounce unequally (audio) \ 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

Beyond equity in public housing, the rule is viewed as a means to break down structural disparities created over the years by government decision-making and unequal treatment of minorities. Bill Lambrecht, ExpressNews.com, "Julián Castro draws on HUD experience as 2020 candidates pitch affordable housing plans," 13 June 2019 But with their pay still unequal to the men’s team, the women’s team filed a lawsuit against US Soccer in March in the lead up to the World Cup series. Tara Golshan, Vox, "How the US women’s soccer team 13-0 World Cup win against Thailand became about pay equity," 11 June 2019 Is separate but unequal housing a prudent and legal approach to the affordability problem? Claire Shamblin, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Proposed development on Sloan’s Lake offers “poor doors” instead of affordable housing," 11 June 2019 Plugging in unequal input and churning out equal output is merely a formula for reversed unfairness. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Fifty-Fifty Follies," 10 June 2019 Access to quality education in the United States remains unequal and unjust, especially for those who need it most. Jenn M. Jackson, Teen Vogue, "Access to Education for Black Children Proves Difficult for Their Parents, Creating a Disadvantage," 13 Mar. 2019 Opportunity would be better equalized, at least while other things in America remain very unequal, by meting out financial aid as kids actually need it. Nathan Heller, The New Yorker, "Who Really Stands to Win from Universal Basic Income?," 24 Mar. 2014 Then see whether any of them acts on it through unequal treatment. Carolyn Hax, The Seattle Times, "How can parents protect child, conceived with donor egg, from toxic relatives?," 30 July 2018 Honduras is one of the most unequal places in the world, with rampant unemployment and widespread economic insecurity. Amanda Erickson, Washington Post, "Why do some families risk crossing the U.S. border? Because if they don’t, they’ll be killed.," 20 June 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

19 Jun 2019

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 How to pronounce unequal (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on unequal

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with unequal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unequal

Spanish Central: Translation of unequal

Nglish: Translation of unequal for Spanish Speakers

Comments on unequal

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


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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