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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web After nearly two months of investigations that have mostly unfolded behind closed doors, the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is going public. Alana Abramson, Time, "What To Look For In The House's Public Impeachment Hearings," 13 Nov. 2019 What makes separates Burkov’s case from run-of-the-mill online financial fraud, though, is the geopolitics that have unfolded since he was originally arrested in Israel nearly four years ago. Wired, "Russia Fails to Stop Alleged Hacker from Facing US Charges," 13 Nov. 2019 Officer Michael Nealey, 49, was charged with second-degree murder after the bizarre incident that unfolded Sunday night at a Hilton hotel on Pensacola Beach in Florida. Fox News, "Oklahoma cop accused of murdering police chief apparently found 'mumbling,' sitting on top of chief's body," 13 Nov. 2019 And in 2015, there was that almost-supernatural event that unfolded as time expired when a botched punt was returned by Michigan State for the winning touchdown at the Big House. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Mark Dantonio knows what bothers Michigan State fans; he's bothered, too," 12 Nov. 2019 Victorian friends and family return to put us in the holiday mood with carols, then start the story that unfolds before our eyes. Renee Valois, Twin Cities, "Review: CTC’s ‘Cinderella’ is a crazily bipolar world … with Minnesota jokes!," 10 Nov. 2019 Whichever method is used, grim storytelling – a skill informed by storytelling and even creative writing – forces people to think in new and unfamiliar ways that can improve their decision-making in real situations that unfold unexpectedly. Neil Shortland, The Conversation, "Making life-or-death decisions is very hard – here’s how we’ve taught people to do it better," 6 Nov. 2019 The hundreds of pages of testimony offer the first glimpse of the so-far secret proceedings that have unfolded in the bowels of the Capitol complex as witness after witness has appeared to testify in the impeachment inquiry. BostonGlobe.com, "WASHINGTON — The former US ambassador to Ukraine told impeachment investigators last month that she felt “threatened” by President Trump after it emerged that he told the Ukrainian president she would “go through some things,” adding that she still feared retaliation.," 5 Nov. 2019 Wright studied district attorney races that unfolded in 10 states between 1996 and 2006 and found that 95 percent of incumbent prosecutors were reelected, with many facing no opposition. Mark Berman, Washington Post, "These prosecutors won office vowing to fight the system. Now, the system is fighting back.," 5 Nov. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of unfold

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unfold

Statistics for unfold

Last Updated

18 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for unfold

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on unfold

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


the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!