un·​less | \ ən-ˈles How to pronounce unless (audio) , ˈən-ˌles\

Definition of unless

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : except on the condition that : under any other circumstance than
2 : without the accompanying circumstance or condition that : but that : but



Definition of unless (Entry 2 of 2)

: except possibly : except

Examples of unless in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition

Women don’t need to be grabbed, hugged and kissed unless its your wife/girlfriend. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "The Beyhive Had a Lot of Feelings About Omari Hardwick Kissing Beyonce," 1 Apr. 2019 The speaker views impeachment as politically fraught unless Democrats have the groundswell of public opinion behind them. Lisa Mascaro, The Seattle Times, "Oversight or overreach? Democrats wrestle with Trump probes," 24 Mar. 2019 If the justices divide evenly, the lower-court ruling for the government would stand, unless the Supreme Court orders reargument after a ninth justice is confirmed. Brent Kendall, WSJ, "Short-Handed Supreme Court Hears Endangered-Species Case," 1 Oct. 2018 Children born by daughters — like Princess Anne's kids Peter and Zara Phillips — also get no title at all, unless the monarch makes an exception. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Kids Won't Be Princes or Princesses," 15 Oct. 2018 Samsung already launched the Note 9 to cap off its premium lineup, and unless the fabled folding phone actually makes its debut, that should be it for 2018 Galaxy flagships. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Samsung teases a quad-camera Galaxy because smartphones are like razors now," 14 Sep. 2018 As of several months ago, the GBI only analyzes primary drugs in evidence submitted (unless a special request is made), in an effort to reduce the backlog. Emilie Ikeda, Fox News, "Dealers return to the streets thanks to steep drug analysis backlogs," 3 Aug. 2018 Typically, under Chinese law, defendants can’t receive heavier sentences in a retrial unless prosecutors present new facts of the crime and bring new charges. Chun Han Wong, WSJ, "China Defends Canadian’s Death Sentence as Huawei Tensions Simmer," 15 Jan. 2019 The House bill, by contrast, prohibits the EPA from stepping in unless the tax is ineffective after a decade. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Bipartisan carbon-tax bill introduced in the Senate offers glimpse at future," 20 Dec. 2018

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


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1532, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for unless


Middle English unlesse, alteration of onlesse, from on + lesse less

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Time Traveler for unless

The first known use of unless was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of unless

used to say what will happen, be done, or be true if something else does not happen, is not done, or is not true


un·​less | \ ən-ˈles How to pronounce unless (audio) \

Kids Definition of unless

: except on the condition that You can't have dessert unless you finish your dinner.

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with unless

Spanish Central: Translation of unless

Nglish: Translation of unless for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unless for Arabic Speakers

Comments on unless

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


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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