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

So the only way a treason charge could stick would be if the government could show that Flynn provided aid and comfort to ISIS, which is probably unlikely. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Michael Flynn’s judge suggested he might be guilty of treason. He’s not.," 18 Dec. 2018 If there was an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, which government officials and scientists have said is unlikely, the result would be a devastating amount of ash and sulfur spewed into the air. Christopher Carbone, Fox News, "Part of Grand Teton National Park near Yellowstone supervolcano closed after massive fissure opens," 18 July 2018 But Gulf states were unlikely to take steps to pressure Trump over the decision. Albert Aji, The Seattle Times, "Trump acceptance of Israeli control of Golan sparks protests," 26 Mar. 2019 Grubb accepts that politicians are unlikely to question economic growth any time soon. David Roberts, Vox, "The case for “conditional optimism” on climate change," 29 Jan. 2019 In 2001, Anne Hathaway came into our lives as an unlikely, thick-eyebrowed princess. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "The Princess Diaries 3," 25 Jan. 2019 Considering that Chopra is a huge Bollywood star who had her own network TV show for years, and that Jonas has a successful music and acting career, this seems unlikely, to say the least. E.j. Dickson, Vox, "The controversy over Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s wedding, explained," 5 Dec. 2018 Sandberg’s preppers believe that scenario is unlikely, given the makeup of the committee. Peter Kafka, Recode, "Jack, Sheryl and the empty chair: A preview of Silicon Valley’s trip to Washington," 4 Sep. 2018 Even babies who are born with hair sometimes lose it after a few weeks, but at this point, that seems unlikely for Baby Chanco, who may grow up to be the Kylie Jenner of hair products. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Meet Baby Chanco, the 7-Month-Old Going Viral for Her Full Head of Hair," 25 July 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

15 Apr 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).


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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