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 Police in the District of Columbia will no longer be allowed to handcuff children 12 years or younger unless the situation is deemed dangerous to the child or the public, Chief Peter Newsham announced, according to the Washington Post. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "DC Police Will Stop Handcuffing Kids Under 12," 28 Jan. 2020 At the same time, the carrier isn’t covered by the ATOL protection scheme that applies to tour operators, so the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority will have no obligation to repatriate passengers, unless the government chooses to step in. Charlotte Ryan, Bloomberg.com, "Cities Cut Off and Airports at Risk: What Happens If Flybe Folds," 14 Jan. 2020 The performance doesn’t work unless the wrestler is fully present. San Francisco Chronicle, "Wrestler Drugz Bunny prepares to enter the ring during a Hoodslam event at Oakland Metro Operahouse in Oakland.," 18 Jan. 2020 The terminal for private jets was quieter than those at most other airports and essentially empty, unless there was a flight coming in, this person said. Rory Jones, WSJ, "In Carlos Ghosn’s Escape, Plotters Exploited an Airport Security Hole," 6 Jan. 2020 The next five spots should be occupied by each of the Clear Creek Independent School District teams unless Alvin (5-12) can produce some magic in the league’s rugged 12-game schedule. Ted Dunnam, Houston Chronicle, "Boys’ basketball: Dickinson heavy favorite to win 24-6A crown," 2 Jan. 2020 Just remember that unless you’re being compensated for them, your nights and weekends belong to you—not your employer. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "Young and ambitious? Don’t devote nights and weekends to your employer—do this instead," 26 Dec. 2019 The feds couldn’t do anything unless the burglars crossed state lines, or began to sell stolen jewelry from one state in another. Geoff Manaugh, The Atlantic, "The Rise and Fall of an All-Star Crew of Jewel Thieves," 17 Dec. 2019 Many of these species will vanish unless gillnets are eliminated, says Robin Baird, a marine biologist and cetacean expert with Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia who was not involved with the study. Virginia Morell, Science | AAAS, "Modern fishing methods are driving small whales and dolphins to extinction," 11 Dec. 2019

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

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Unless.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unless. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for unless

How to pronounce unless (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on unless

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

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