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
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 Growing critic of China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, condemned the decision on Friday as unilateral and arbitrary. NBC News, "Hong Kong lawmaker mourns 'end of homeland' as China mulls anti-protest law," 21 May 2020 Such an opening is exactly what tourism operators have been waiting for -- even if European neighbors so far appeared be wary of the unilateral Italian announcement. USA TODAY, "Italy seeks to boost tourism by opening regional and international borders June 3," 16 May 2020 Last month, the Saudis declared a unilateral cease-fire, but it was rebuffed by the Houthis as a purported ploy, and fighting continued. Maggie Michael, The Christian Science Monitor, "Separatist power grab throws Yemen's south into turmoil," 5 May 2020 This full-body dumbbell workout also includes a bunch of unilateral moves—like the single-leg deadlift, skater hop, and lateral lunge—which are great for building balanced strength throughout your body. Amy Marturana Winderl, SELF, "A Full-Body Dumbbell Workout That Takes Just 25 Minutes," 30 Apr. 2020 Now Wendy has rendered a unilateral verdict on their trial separation, issuing a news release announcing her and Chuck’s divorce. Sean T. Collins, New York Times, "‘Billions’ Season 5 Premiere Recap: Chopping Heads," 3 May 2020 Saudi Arabia has presented the unilateral truce as a chance to allow Yemen to deal with a looming coronavirus pandemic. Sune Engel Rasmussen And Saleh Al-batati, WSJ, "Yemen’s Houthis Reject Peace Talks as Saudi-Led Truce Ends," 23 Apr. 2020 The unilateral ceasefire, said the Saudis, was prompted by fears of covid-19 spreading into Yemen, the region’s poorest country, which does not have the capacity to deal with a big outbreak. The Economist, "War and peace during the pandemic A Saudi ceasefire provides some hope of ending the war in Yemen," 9 Apr. 2020 The Constitution doesn't spell out a unilateral power for the president to adjourn Congress. Tucker Reals, CBS News, "Coronavirus updates: Almost 31,000 dead in U.S. as COVID-19 spreads," 16 Apr. 2020

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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Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unilateral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unilateral. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for unilateral


How to pronounce unilateral (audio)

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 unilaterally (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

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