unique

adjective
\yu̇-ˈnēk \

Definition of unique 

1 : being the only one : sole his unique concern was his own comfort I can't walk away with a unique copy. Suppose I lost it?— Kingsley Amis the unique factorization of a number into prime factors

2a : being without a like or equal : unequaled could stare at the flames, each one new, violent, unique— Robert Coover

b : distinctively characteristic : peculiar sense 1 this is not a condition unique to California— Ronald Reagan

3 : unusual a very unique ball-point pen we were fairly unique, the sixty of us, in that there wasn't one good mixer in the bunch— J. D. Salinger

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from unique

uniquely adverb
uniqueness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for unique

strange, singular, unique, peculiar, eccentric, erratic, odd, quaint, outlandish mean departing from what is ordinary, usual, or to be expected. strange stresses unfamiliarity and may apply to the foreign, the unnatural, the unaccountable. a journey filled with strange sights singular suggests individuality or puzzling strangeness. a singular feeling of impending disaster unique implies singularity and the fact of being without a known parallel. a career unique in the annals of science peculiar implies a marked distinctiveness. the peculiar status of America's first lady eccentric suggests a wide divergence from the usual or normal especially in behavior. the eccentric eating habits of preschoolers erratic stresses a capricious and unpredictable wandering or deviating. a friend's suddenly erratic behavior odd applies to a departure from the regular or expected. an odd sense of humor quaint suggests an old-fashioned but pleasant oddness. a quaint fishing village outlandish applies to what is uncouth, bizarre, or barbaric. outlandish fashions of the time

Can something be very unique or somewhat unique?: Usage Guide

Many commentators have objected to the comparison or modification (as by somewhat or very) of unique, often asserting that a thing is either unique or it is not. Objections are based chiefly on the assumption that unique has but a single absolute sense, an assumption contradicted by information readily available in a dictionary. Unique dates back to the 17th century but was little used until the end of the 18th when, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was reacquired from French. H. J. Todd entered it as a foreign word in his edition (1818) of Johnson's Dictionary, characterizing it as "affected and useless." Around the middle of the 19th century it ceased to be considered foreign and came into considerable popular use. With popular use came a broadening of application beyond the original two meanings (here numbered senses 1 and 2a). In modern use both comparison and modification are widespread and standard but are confined to the extended senses 2b and 3. When sense 1 or sense 2a is intended, unique is used without qualifying modifiers.

Examples of unique in a Sentence

There are no clear blueprints to be discovered in history that can help us shape the future as we wish. Each historical event is a unique congeries of factors, people, or chronology. — Margaret McMillan, Dangerous Games, 2008 [Tiger] Wood's unique skill set was on display again at last week's U.S. Open, but this victory was more visceral. It was all heart. — Alan Shipnuck, Sports Illustrated, 23 June 2008 Space is a strange and unique item—you can't take it to a lab and analyze it like beef jerky. — Bob Berman, Astronomy, November 2007 A century ago a doctor was considered to be part of a social elite. He—and medicine was then very much a masculine endeavor—had a unique mastery of a special body of knowledge. He professed a commitment to levels of competence and integrity that he expected society to respect and trust. — Richard Horton, New York Review of Books, 31 May 2007 Most stars are not born in isolation but instead in groups of several thousand to tens of thousands, all of which emerge from the same parent cloud of gas. Each cloud has a unique and homogeneous mix of chemical elements and isotopes, which its stellar progeny inherits. Even when the stars disperse, they retain their unique chemical tag … — Rodrigo Ibata et al., Scientific American, April 2007 As a dozen new books will testify, our nation is in the midst of a great barbecue renaissance, with each region proudly claiming its own unique style. — Ruth Reichl, Gourmet, July 2005 She's in the unique position of running for office against her husband. Humans are unique among mammals in several respects.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Which was fitting, because Wednesday’s reception was an incredibly unique scene and opportunity. Mike Anthony, courant.com, "Mike Anthony: The Bond Of Dee And Ginny Rowe Was The Bond For Countless Communities, A UConn Family," 12 July 2018 No two rooms look the same, as each features a colorful paint job or unique remnant alluding to the house’s colonial past. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "18th-century mill house in lush Connecticut backwoods asks $995K," 11 July 2018 For an in-depth and up-close look at Iceland's unique soccer culture and vast landscape, watch SI TV's new, exclusive mini-doc, Exploring Planet Fútbol: Iceland. Brian Straus, SI.com, "Magnitude of Iceland's World Cup Debut vs. Argentina Not Lost on Confident Underdog," 15 June 2018 How has something so profane, so intoxicated and so clothing-resistant continued to ride its unique wave in a world miles less accepting of this kind of sandy fun run amok? Bryce Miller, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Cover your ears: Over-the-Line evolves, but the raunchy team names remain," 14 July 2018 But in Canada, indigenous women artists have faced a unique set of barriers. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Unprecedented Billboard Campaign Puts Spotlight on Indigenous Artists in Canada," 13 July 2018 Confronting the unique complexity of health care demands an insider’s familiarity with the system and an outsider’s willingness to break it. Alexi Nazem, STAT, "Health care needs more physician CEOs like Atul Gawande," 13 July 2018 Could be three-time champ Mark Mulder or it could be a unique competitor, Natalie Gulbis, who is pulling odds around 10-1 (following in the footsteps of Annika Sorenstam who finished second in 2014). Mel Shields, sacbee, "Chicago original Peter Cetera brings solo show to Thunder Valley," 13 July 2018 Shop the Dell Cyber Week sale eBay Right now, eBay is running a unique $119 Deals promotion. Courtney Campbell, USA TODAY, "All the other stores having sales for Amazon Prime Day," 13 July 2018

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

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for unique

French, from Latin unicus, from unus one — more at one

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unique

Statistics for unique

Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unique

The first known use of unique was in 1601

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unique

unique

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of unique

—used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else

: very special or unusual

: belonging to or connected with only one particular thing, place, or person

unique

adjective
\yu̇-ˈnēk \

Kids Definition of unique

1 : being the only one of its kind Every snowflake is unique.

2 : very unusual : notable a unique talent

Other Words from unique

uniquely adverb She is uniquely suited for this job.
uniqueness noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on unique

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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