uni·​lat·​er·​al | \ ˌyü-ni-ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio) , -ˈla-trəl \

Definition of unilateral

1a : done or undertaken by one person or party
b : of, relating to, or affecting one side of a subject : one-sided
c : constituting or relating to a contract or engagement by which an express obligation to do or forbear is imposed on only one party
2a : having parts arranged on one side a unilateral raceme
b : occurring on, performed on, or affecting one side of the body or one of its parts unilateral exophthalmos
3 : unilineal
4 : having only one side

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Other Words from unilateral

unilaterally adverb

Did You Know?

The world is a smaller place than it used to be, and we get uncomfortable when a single nation adopts a policy of unilateralism—that is, acting independently with little regard for what the rest of the world thinks. A unilateral invasion of another country, for instance, usually looks like a grab for power and resources. But occasionally the world welcomes a unilateral action, as when the U.S. announced unilateral nuclear-arms reductions in the early 1990s. Previously, such reductions had only happened as part of bilateral ("two-sided") agreements with the old Soviet Union. Multilateral agreements, on issues such as climate change, often involve most of the world's nations.

Examples of unilateral in a Sentence

Our country is prepared to take unilateral action.
Recent Examples on the Web The court also noted that a person cannot become a limited purpose public figure by the unilateral acts of another. Jack Greiner, The Enquirer, "Strictly Legal: Kesha producer not a public figure," 28 Apr. 2021 In Europe, the suspension of the J&J rollout was made by the company itself, not by regulators—indeed, J&J's unilateral distribution pause came just as its first deliveries arrived in EU countries, leaving authorities uncertain what to do with them. David Meyer, Fortune, "J&J COVID vaccine: EU regulator sees possible link to clots but still recommends rollout," 20 Apr. 2021 Even if your employer thought less visibility and a less challenging position would mean less strain on your mental health, that’s not the employer’s unilateral call to make. Washington Post, "My old job was erased when I was on medical leave. Doesn’t the job I return to have to be the same?," 15 Apr. 2021 At the time, those largely unilateral concessions were intended to encourage the progressive liberalization of Cuba. Néstor T. Carbonell, National Review, "Cuba Remains a Threat," 12 Apr. 2021 Now, Biden and his aides are poised to clear his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan using the same unilateral process. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Does Biden really know Congress as well as he says? Tax plan suggests maybe not," 7 Apr. 2021 The United States’ unilateral negotiations with the Taliban have drawn ire from Afghan negotiators, who see the side discussions as a distraction from the broader peace talks. New York Times, "U.S. Looks to Build on Secret Portions of Taliban Deal to Reduce Violence," 4 Apr. 2021 In the complaint, Ken Paxton and Austin Knudsen—the attorneys general of Texas and Montana—argue Biden does not have the unilateral authority to change energy policy which has been set by Congress. Siladitya Ray, Forbes, "Texas, Montana Lead 21 GOP-Run States In Suing Biden Admin Over Keystone XL Suspension," 18 Mar. 2021 Washington — President Biden is set to take unilateral action Sunday focused on voting rights and using the tools of the federal government to boost access for Americans to voter registration services. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, "Biden poised to sign executive order aimed at promoting voting rights," 7 Mar. 2021

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

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for unilateral

Time Traveler

The first known use of unilateral was in 1802

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Statistics for unilateral

Last Updated

1 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unilateral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unilateral. Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for unilateral



English Language Learners Definition of unilateral

: involving only one group or country


uni·​lat·​er·​al | \ ˌyü-ni-ˈlat-ə-rəl, -ˈla-trəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio) \

Medical Definition of unilateral

: occurring on, performed on, or affecting one side of the body or one of its parts unilateral exophthalmos

Other Words from unilateral

unilaterally \ -​ē How to pronounce unilateral (audio) \ adverb


uni·​lat·​er·​al | \ ˌyü-nə-ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio) \

Legal Definition of unilateral

1 : done or undertaken by one party a unilateral mistake as to the terms
2 : of, relating to, or affecting one side of a subject
3 : containing a promise to perform made by only one party especially because the other has already performed (as by paying an amount) an option contract is unilateral

Other Words from unilateral

unilaterally adverb

Comments on unilateral

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