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 Virus particles are unlikely to return to the air, or aerosolize, once on a surface. CBS News, "Paper money shunned due to coronavirus," 20 Mar. 2020 The rock tumbler was one of many unlikely cooking gear Claire has used on her hit show Gourmet Makes. Alex Beggs, Bon Appétit, "11 Crafty Cooking Tools Claire Saffitz Has Rigged on Gourmet Makes," 19 Mar. 2020 Barring a blockbuster trade that seems unlikely due to a tight salary cap situation (made worse by Brady leaving), the list of quarterbacks available to the Patriots looks mediocre. TheWeek, "Tom Brady bet on himself. So did Bill Belichick.," 18 Mar. 2020 After working his way onto draft boards with a breakout season, junior forward Nick Richards seems unlikely to return with questions about his age already limiting his stock as a prospect. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Unforgettable final week capped coronavirus-shortened Kentucky basketball season," 12 Mar. 2020 Why Witten is unlikely to return: This isn’t a money or sentimental issue. Calvin Watkins, Dallas News, "Cowboys free agents most likely to depart: Why it’s time for Jason Witten and Dallas to part ways," 14 Feb. 2020 But Wu Zhiyong, Wang Qian, Xu Ke, and Liu Lei are unlikely to return to the United States to face the charges. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Amazon tries to hold Trump to account, but nothing will come of it," 11 Feb. 2020 Cool water is much better and unlikely to cause blood vessels to contract, slowing down heat loss. John Gordon, Outdoor Life, "10 Gun Dog Disasters to Avoid," 11 Feb. 2020 But one thing a Los Angeles jury is unlikely to hear, at least in the courtroom, is the outcome of the New York trial, Levenson said. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, "Harvey Weinstein is still facing a trial in Los Angeles: What happens next?," 12 Mar. 2020

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

31 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unlikely.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unlikely. Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

March 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • field of crocuses
  • Which is a synonym of rectitudinous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!