un·less | \ ən-ˈles , 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

But in Florida, felons often lose those rights for the rest of their lives unless the governor and Cabinet vote to restore them. Scott Maxwell, OrlandoSentinel.com, "In Florida, getting back civil rights means groveling to politicians," 11 July 2018 For minors, medical privacy rules may prevent sampling unless each child is designated a legal guardian or representative, which is obviously problematic in this case. John Moore, National Geographic, "Could DNA Testing Reunite Immigrant Families? Get the Facts.," 25 June 2018 Cleveland doesn’t have the assets to swing a trade for a player of Leonard’s caliber, unless, of course, LeBron James is included in the deal. Steven Ruiz, For The Win, "Betting odds on where Kawhi Leonard will play next season," 15 June 2018 Webworms don't do enough damage to be significant, unless a plant is small. Ellen Nibali, baltimoresun.com, "Garden Q&A: Be wary of the 'bathtub effect'," 12 July 2018 An Ohio strip club law prohibits patrons from touching a nude or seminude dancer unless the patron is a member of the dancer's immediate family. Author: Samantha Schmidt, Anchorage Daily News, "Stormy Daniels arrested at an Ohio strip club for touching patrons, police say," 12 July 2018 One example: Labor unions threatening to tie up construction projects with California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits unless developers agree to use unionized labor. Dan Walters, SFChronicle.com, "Genteel extortion cancels 3 California ballot measures," 3 July 2018 Giant pandas spend most of the year as solitary creatures, avoiding their mates unless interaction is absolutely necessary. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "A Primer on the Zoo’s Possibly Pregnant Giant Panda," 28 June 2018 The plants cannot use the soil’s calcium unless the soil is moist. Margaret Lauterbach, idahostatesman, "With drought always a threat, we all need to learn our water lessons," 16 June 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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Phrases Related to unless

not unless

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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 \

Kids Definition of unless

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

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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 make amends

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