unique

adjective
\ yu̇-ˈnēk How to pronounce unique (audio) \

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
c : able to be distinguished from all others of its class or type : distinct sense 1 You will see an assortment of digital tags that let the Web site identify your computer as a unique visitor.— Peter H. Lewis
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 But the operas of Richard Wagner are arguably unique in this regard: No other creative genius in the Western canon so unerringly holds up a mirror to time and place. Joseph Horowitz, WSJ, "‘Wagnerism: Art & Politics in the Shadow of Music’ Review: The Outsider," 11 Sep. 2020 Williamson is one of the most unique athletes in league history. Christian Clark, NOLA.com, "5 questions Pelicans must answer headed into a long offseason," 11 Sep. 2020 The 2020 edition of the race was poised to be the sport's most unique. Analis Bailey, The Arizona Republic, "Authentic wins the 146th Kentucky Derby ahead of favorite Tiz the Law," 6 Sep. 2020 Native Americans had met Europeans in scores of places before 1620, so yet another encounter was hardly unique. Peter C. Mancall, The Conversation, "The complicated legacy of the Pilgrims is finally coming to light 400 years after they landed in Plymouth," 4 Sep. 2020 Because of the unique situation and story, this specific bag is unlike any other of its kind. Kaitlyn Frey, PEOPLE.com, "The Story Behind the TikTok User Who Went Viral for Identifying Blake Lively's Famous Gossip Girl Purse," 2 Sep. 2020 Football players, because of the unique situation of COVID, haven’t had their chance. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Want an NFL season? Then NFL owners need to start speaking up and using influence," 27 Aug. 2020 Make sure to think of it as a tool, not as a stand-alone solution that can solve your unique situation. Sarah Sekula, CNN, "Searching for more zzzs? There is a sleep app for that," 27 Aug. 2020 The unique voting situation brought on a flurry of legal challenges from voting rights groups. Amelia Pak-harvey, The Indianapolis Star, "Indianapolis expands voting locations for November election," 26 Aug. 2020

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

Time Traveler for unique

Time Traveler

The first known use of unique was in 1601

See more words from the same year

Statistics for unique

Last Updated

16 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unique.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unique. Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unique

unique

adjective
How to pronounce unique (audio)

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 How to pronounce unique (audio) \

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.

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

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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!