un·​like·​ly | \ ˌən-ˈlī-klē How to pronounce unlikely (audio) \

Definition of unlikely

1 : not likely : improbable an unlikely outcome
2 : likely to fail : unpromising

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Synonyms & Antonyms for unlikely


doubtful, dubious, far-fetched, flimsy, improbable, questionable, unapt


likely, probable

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Examples of unlikely in a Sentence

He was an unlikely candidate for the position. A big city seems like an unlikely place to find wildlife. I received support from an unlikely ally.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Meanwhile, Nacho's fellow Spanish international Cesar Azplicueta is also on the wishlist, with Conte desperate for a reunion with the Chelsea defender, though negotiating such a deal for the club captain amid their transfer ban seems unlikely. SI.com, "Inter Enquire About Real Madrid Defender Nacho as Antonio Conte Seeks New Signings," 7 June 2019 The latter seems unlikely, given there would be no U.S. opportunities if players were out of sight. David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "WNBA players risk injury overseas, but they'll keep playing in those leagues," 7 June 2019 But those distinctive scars, which rippled across actor Jordan’s body in his shirtless combat scene with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) take inspiration from an unlikely source — Denzel Washington in Civil War drama Glory. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, "Michael B. Jordan reveals Killmonger's Black Panther scars were inspired by Denzel Washington in Glory," 7 June 2019 The cast's lackluster response is one thing, but there's one more reason why a Friends reunion is highly unlikely: the creator is so not into the idea. Kaitlin Reilly, refinery29.com, "These Friends Reunion Rumors Are Just Getting Cruel, Jennifer Aniston!," 6 June 2019 Fitzgerald last week said Republicans were unlikely to go along with any increase in the gas tax, which stands at 32.9 cents a gallon. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Republicans appear nowhere near a deal on road funding," 5 June 2019 Knowing their team was unlikely to score against the faster, more talented Fillies, Goletz and assistant Jim Konrad, who has guided North’s boys team to the last three state titles, opted to let Barrington (22-2-1) go on the attack. Matt Le Cren, Naperville Sun, "Title defense: Naperville North stuns Barrington in PKs for state championship after going without a shot in regulation, OT," 4 June 2019 Ukraine and European powers are unlikely to support a referendum in the Donbass region, where pro-Russian separatists hold sway. Fox News, "Russian envoy: Moscow open to Putin visit to Washington," 20 July 2018 Ahead in the polls in the early days of the 2020 contest, Biden is unlikely to embrace a more aggressive approach in the near future. Steve Peoples, The Seattle Times, "Biden rejects Democrats’ anger in call for national unity," 20 May 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for unlikely

Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unlikely

The first known use of unlikely was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for unlikely



English Language Learners Definition of unlikely

: not likely
: not seeming to be right or suited for a purpose


un·​like·​ly | \ ən-ˈlī-klē How to pronounce unlikely (audio) \
unlikelier; unlikeliest

Kids Definition of unlikely

1 : not likely an unlikely story
2 : not promising This is an unlikely place for fishing.

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More from Merriam-Webster on unlikely

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unlikely

Spanish Central: Translation of unlikely

Nglish: Translation of unlikely for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unlikely for Arabic Speakers

Comments on unlikely

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


a tendency to relapse

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