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

Trouble not only introduces fans to a whole new city, but brings in characters that viewers are unlikely to see anywhere else. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, ""Good Trouble"'s Cierra Ramirez and Tommy Martinez Get Real About Working With Noah Centineo, Bisexual Representation, and What’s Next for The “Fosters” Spin-Off," 10 Jan. 2019 Admittedly, the visual is just as unlikely as the storyline: a 50-something-year-old dad baring it all in ill-fitting undies. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Are You Ready for the Return of Tighty-Whities? Gucci Sure Is," 25 Sep. 2018 Drones in tests fly in convenient straight lines, an unlikely path for a real target. David Hambling, Popular Mechanics, "What Are Airports Going to Do About Drones?," 9 Jan. 2019 Football scarves were an unlikely trend last winter, and brands like Fendi and Burberry have designed their own logo’d versions ever since. Emily Farra, Vogue, "10 Trends We Expect to See in Men’s Street Style This Year," 2 Jan. 2019 Starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, the movie revolves around the very mysterious Emily (Lively), her unlikely friendship with Stephanie (Kendrick), and, going by the trailer, Emily's deep devotion to drinking martinis and looking stylish. Rachel Nussbaum, Glamour, "Blake Lively's 'A Simple Favor' Premiere Manicure Had a Hidden Message," 11 Sep. 2018 Despite Georgia’s important contribution to NATO operations, the alliance is unlikely to invite the country in until the conflict with the two regions has been resolved. BostonGlobe.com, "NATO says it is united at end of raucous, divisive summit," 12 July 2018 With recent blockbuster reports highlighting the dire and immediate nature of climate change, the environment—and the politics and planning that come in response—seem unlikely to leave the spotlight anytime soon. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "As cities confront climate change, is density the answer?," 11 Dec. 2018 Anyone who has been following the year’s biggest interiors trends knows that terrazzo has become an unlikely darling of the design set. Jennifer Fernandez, House Beautiful, "This Company Is Making Gorgeous Terrazzo Furnishings Out Of Recycled Marble," 11 Dec. 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

4 Feb 2019

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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

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


irregularly rounded

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