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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web But being generous to both drivers and transit riders is unlikely to lead to a big jump in bus or train commutes: free or cheap parking has overwhelming power and can even counteract the impact of strong transit benefits. BostonGlobe.com, "You're using a browser set to private or incognito mode.," 22 Nov. 2019 The economy has already taken a hit, and investment is unlikely to recover until the outline of the new model is clear. The Economist, "Chile staggers towards a new constitution," 21 Nov. 2019 The attorney general's decision is unlikely to have an immediate impact on Netanyahu's standing within his ruling Likud, but on Thursday there were already indications that a leadership challenge was underway. Steve Hendrix, Anchorage Daily News, "Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust," 21 Nov. 2019 Electric scooters are unlikely to pack such a powerful social punch. Clive Thompson, Smithsonian, "What the Fight Over Scooters Has in Common With the 19th-Century Battle Over Bicycles," 21 Nov. 2019 Texans coach Bill O'Brien said any player who suffered a concussion in Sunday's game against Baltimore would be unlikely to play against the Colts on Thursday. Aaron Wilson, Houston Chronicle, "Texans Justin Reid not expected to play vs. Colts," 19 Nov. 2019 As economists of many stripes have pointed out, tariffs were always unlikely to address trade imbalances that are, at heart, caused by capital flows. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "What is the US getting out of Trump’s trade war with China? Not much," 18 Nov. 2019 To corrupt data, two particles would have to simultaneously strike exactly where the two copies of the same bit are stored, and that is extremely unlikely. Jacek Krywko, Ars Technica, "Space-grade CPUs: How do you send more computing power into space?," 11 Nov. 2019 Ellison, a 6 foot 6 guard/forward, sustained a sprained ankle in practice Sunday and is unlikely to play Tuesday night as Hartford opens the season against Central Connecticut in New Britain. Mike Anthony, courant.com, "Mike Anthony: Malik Ellison, son of ‘Never Nervous Pervis,’ possibly the ‘bear’ Hartford basketball needs," 5 Nov. 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.

See More

First Known Use of unlikely

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unlikely

Time Traveler for unlikely

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for unlikely

Last Updated

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Unlikely.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unlikely. Accessed 6 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unlikely


How to pronounce unlikely (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


very cautious or careful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!