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 unequal (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for unequal

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of unequal in a Sentence

Adjective unequal academic standards for male and female students unequal justice based on race
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The White House is quick to emphasize the recovery is still a work in progress and has been deeply unequal. Washington Post, "Biden’s economy shows strength, but recovery is far from complete," 22 Apr. 2021 The White House is quick to emphasize the recovery is still a work in progress and has been deeply unequal. Anchorage Daily News, "Biden’s economy shows strength, with optimism rising, businesses rebounding and hunger decreasing," 22 Apr. 2021 And like Powell, Rosengren was quick to underscore that the recovery so far has been unequal, leaving many businesses and households behind. BostonGlobe.com, "Boston Fed president forecasts strong economic growth as COVID threat wanes," 12 Apr. 2021 Classroom time is dramatically unequal for students in different Portland area districts. oregonlive, "In Oregon, more than 1 in 3 public school students now get regular classroom instruction," 8 Apr. 2021 Still, San Francisco’s vaccination rates don’t appear to be as unequal as the state’s overall. Susie Neilson, San Francisco Chronicle, "Vaccine rates vary by neighborhood in San Francisco. Here's why," 25 Mar. 2021 The vaccination effort has been complicated by unequal access to shots, an incomplete understanding of side effects and manufacturing foul-ups. Greg Bardsley, CNN, "The people who saved us deserve a ticker tape parade," 21 Apr. 2021 There are fewer people of color involved in clinical trials for drugs; there are more people of color who live in regions with unequal access to food, or clean air, or safe housing. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "The public health scourge we don’t talk about nearly enough," 9 Apr. 2021 More than a year on, there are still concerns about safety and worries about unequal access to technology. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, "Public schools facing enrollment dip try to entice parents back," 5 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for unequal

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The first known use of unequal was in 1565

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Statistics for unequal

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unequal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unequal. Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for unequal



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

More from Merriam-Webster on unequal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unequal

Nglish: Translation of unequal for Spanish Speakers

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