unilateral

adjective

uni·​lat·​er·​al ˌyü-ni-ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio)
-ˈla-trəl
1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
4
: having only one side
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 On January 1, 2024, Abiy upended decades of security policy toward Somalia by declaring a unilateral deal with the breakaway Republic of Somaliland. Alex De Waal, Foreign Affairs, 8 Apr. 2024 Just ahead of the October 2022 presidential election runoff between Lula da Silva and Bolsonaro, the electoral tribunal gave de Moraes unilateral power to order tech companies to remove online posts and videos under the threat of suspension in Brazil. Chad De Guzman, TIME, 8 Apr. 2024 As to how Russia, China, or other nations will respond to this seemingly unilateral action, that remains an open question. Isaac Schultz / Gizmodo, Quartz, 2 Apr. 2024 Another unilateral action, applying U.S. antitrust laws against Chinese ACMD beneficiary firms, may also prove useful. Alden Abbott, Forbes, 28 Mar. 2024 Or struggle with how unjust and unilateral the relationship is? Sahaj Kaur Kohli, Washington Post, 14 Mar. 2024 This unilateral withdrawal effectively removed the limitations on Iran’s nuclear development and required an abrupt reversal of Israeli priorities. Anshel Pfeffer, The Atlantic, 27 Mar. 2024 This will require the warring parties and their allies to take unilateral steps that convey their intentions to the other side. Samuel Charap, Foreign Affairs, 5 Mar. 2024 Talks broke down two weeks ago after Cal State made a unilateral offer of a 5 percent pay raise. USA TODAY, 22 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'unilateral.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of unilateral was in 1802

Dictionary Entries Near unilateral

Cite this Entry

“Unilateral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unilateral. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

unilateral

adjective
uni·​lat·​er·​al ˌyü-ni-ˈlat-ə-rəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio)
-ˈla-trəl
: done or carried out by only one of two or more parties
unilateral disarmament
unilaterally
adverb

Medical Definition

unilateral

adjective
uni·​lat·​er·​al ˌyü-ni-ˈlat-ə-rəl, -ˈla-trəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio)
: occurring on, performed on, or affecting one side of the body or one of its parts
unilateral exophthalmos
unilaterally adverb

Legal Definition

unilateral

adjective
uni·​lat·​er·​al ˌyü-nə-ˈla-tə-rəl How to pronounce unilateral (audio)
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
unilaterally adverb
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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