un·like·ly | \ ˌən-ˈlī-klē \

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

Nzonzi, however, is unlikely to be that one extra addition following the midfield arrivals of Sampdoria's Lucas Torreira and 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi from French side Lorient. SI.com, "Unai Emery Dismisses Reports Suggesting Arsenal Have Made Move to Reunite Him With Sevilla Star," 13 July 2018 The new planes are unlikely to be ready before Inauguration Day 2021. Adam K. Raymond, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Wants ‘More American’ Paint Job, Bigger Bed for Air Force One," 12 July 2018 Highly unlikely anytime soon, many state political analysts say. Phil Galewitz And David Smiley, miamiherald, "In Florida, mid-term elections hold little hope for Medicaid expansion," 6 July 2018 President Trump’s Supreme Court pick is unlikely to be friendly to environmental activists’ causes. Melody Gutierrez, SFChronicle.com, "Gas taxes, cage-free chickens and a chopped-up California top fall ballot," 3 July 2018 This study is thus unlikely to be the last word on the age-limit dispute, says Haim Cohen, a molecular biologist at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel. Elie Dolgin, Scientific American, "There's No Limit to Longevity, Says Study Reviving Human Life Span Debate," 1 July 2018 The slowdown in refugee arrivals is unlikely to be sufficiently impactful to be widely felt throughout the local economy. Phillip Molnar, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Will a slowdown in refugees hurt San Diego County’s economy?," 29 June 2018 Friday’s court decision is unlikely to be the end of the matter, as Kentucky is expected to appeal the district court’s decision. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Federal judge blocks Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements," 29 June 2018 In simple terms, this is because brands are unlikely to be able to verify the exact provenance of all their ingredients. Nick Levine, refinery29.com, "The Truth About How Ethical Your Beauty Products Really Are," 26 June 2018

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

16 Sep 2018

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 \
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

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