un·​fold | \ ˌən-ˈfōld How to pronounce unfold (audio) \
unfolded; unfolding; unfolds

Definition of unfold

transitive verb

1a : to open the folds of : spread or straighten out : expand unfolded the map
b : to remove (something, such as a package) from the folds : unwrap
2 : to open to the view : reveal especially : to make clear by gradual disclosure and often by recital

intransitive verb

1a : to open from a folded state : open out : expand
2 : develop, evolve as the story unfolds
3 : to open out gradually to the view or understanding : become known a panorama unfolds before their eyes

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Other Words from unfold

unfoldment \ ˌən-​ˈfōl(d)-​mənt How to pronounce unfoldment (audio) \ noun

Examples of unfold in a Sentence

The couch unfolds to form a bed. We'll have more news as events unfold. We watched the drama unfold on live television. As the story unfolds, we learn that the boy became an orphan when he was one year old.
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Recent Examples on the Web Amid the unfolding global coronavirus scare, this has somehow become a new normal in airports, cafes, schools, hotels, and various checkpoints everywhere. Anne Quito, Quartz, "Photos: A temperature gun to the head has become an iconic coronavirus image," 22 Feb. 2020 But, in yet another twist in the still-unfolding saga, the prosecution’s key witness took the stand at a December preliminary hearing and told a different version of the events inside the Glen Park home. Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle, "Did Kevin Epps kill in self-defense?," 21 Feb. 2020 The results of the New York State bail reform — a slowly unfolding debacle — may well determine the future of this type of policy proposal. Barry Latzer, National Review, "Democrats Prefer ‘Reforming’ the Criminal-Justice System to Punishing Criminals," 17 Feb. 2020 The unfolding story of the cruise ship The Diamond Princess, off Japanese coast is instructive. Oommen C. Kurian, Quartz India, "How an Indian state successfully fought and contained the deadly coronavirus," 13 Feb. 2020 In regards to the other unfolding royal story—Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's decision to step down from their roles as senior royals—the Queen is keeping on and carrying on, as well. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Queen Elizabeth Returns to Buckingham Palace in London After Her Winter Stay at Sandringham," 11 Feb. 2020 Not for my personal health, but over the unfolding optics: more and more Chinese people were wearing masks and self-isolating. Zoe Yang, Bon Appétit, "As Coronavirus Panic Spreads, I Went in Search of Wuhan’s Defining Dish," 6 Feb. 2020 But Lamb said that the complaint is an attempt by political opponents in Pinal County to latch on to an unfolding scandal in state politics during an election year. Andrew Oxford, azcentral, "Ethics complaints against Arizona Rep. David Cook allege improper campaign contribution, conflict of interest," 5 Feb. 2020 Credit Suisse’s board has been under pressure to act in the still-unfolding spying scandal, which began in September when former Credit Suisse executive board member Iqbal Khan spotted and confronted an investigator following him. Margot Patrick, WSJ, "Credit Suisse Shareholders Pressure Chairman to Support CEO in Spying Scandal," 5 Feb. 2020

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Time Traveler for unfold

Time Traveler

The first known use of unfold was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unfold.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unfolding. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for unfold


How to pronounce unfold (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of unfold

: to spread or cause (something) to spread or straighten out from a folded position
: to happen as time passes
: to be told or made known


un·​fold | \ ˌən-ˈfōld How to pronounce unfold (audio) \
unfolded; unfolding

Kids Definition of unfold

1 : to open the folds of : open up Carefully unfold the map.
2 : to lay open to view or understanding : reveal … Roscuro went on unfolding, step by step, his diabolical plan …— Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
3 : to develop gradually We learn the secret as the story unfolds.

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More from Merriam-Webster on unfold

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unfold

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with unfold

Spanish Central: Translation of unfold

Nglish: Translation of unfold for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unfold for Arabic Speakers

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