un·rav·el | \ ˌən-ˈra-vəl \
unraveled; unraveling; unravels

Definition of unravel 

transitive verb

1a : to disengage or separate the threads of : disentangle

b : to cause to come apart by or as if by separating the threads of

2 : to resolve the intricacy, complexity, or obscurity of : clear up unravel a mystery

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Examples of unravel in a Sentence

Scientists are still unraveling the secrets of DNA. Their plans unraveled when she lost her job. His frequent absences from home caused his marriage to unravel. I feel like my life is unraveling.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Fans have been busy unraveling clues for months now: Hidden messages in the file names of photos gave early references to song and album titles, along with things still left to be deciphered. Paige Williams, Billboard, "Twenty One Pilots' 'Trench': Decoding the Clues They've Left About Their New Album," 12 July 2018 But the game could have unraveled for him in the second inning, when errors by first baseman Carlos Santana and shortstop Kingery put runners on second and third with one out. Scott Lauber, Philly.com, "Nick Pivetta picks up much-needed win in Phillies' victory over Orioles," 12 July 2018 The case that has since unraveled amounts to one of the biggest investment frauds in Charlotte's history. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "Rick Siskey Ponzi victims will finally get paid, as part of a $10 million deal," 11 July 2018 Once Nick got shot, his death unraveled in gruesome, wrenching slow motion, with lingering glances at his family frantically trying to save him. Laura Bradley, HWD, "Fear the Walking Dead," 30 Apr. 2018 These fragrances unravel old-world stereotypes — something that perfumer Dora Baghriche believes female noses are uniquely positioned to do. Liana Schaffner, Allure, "Women in Fragrance Are Finally Getting the Recognition They Deserve," 21 Apr. 2018 Turning Point: The game unraveled for the Barons in the bottom of the eighth as Jorge Rondon (L, 0-1) gave up five hits, including a two-out single from former Baron Jose Vinicio that proved to be the game winning hit. Birmingham Barons, AL.com, "Late Rally Sinks Barons In 5-4 Defeat," 16 Apr. 2018 Casanova wanted to unravel those tragic cases of flu, in which a child with no apparent underlying illness wound up in the intensive care unit. Claudia Wallis, Scientific American, "Extreme Flu? Weird Encephalitis? It May Be Your Genes," 13 July 2018 A year later, in 2017, Mr. Gizunov, the former director of Unit 26165, used military intelligence agents to unravel a F.S.B. cyber operation that had focused on Ukraine and domestic issues, Russian media have reported. Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, "G.R.U., Russian Spy Agency Cited by Mueller, Casts a Long Shadow," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unravel.' 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 unravel

1603, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

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Statistics for unravel

Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unravel

The first known use of unravel was in 1603

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More Definitions for unravel



English Language Learners Definition of unravel

: to cause the separate threads of something to come apart

: to find the correct explanation for (something that is difficult to understand)

: to fail or begin to fail


un·rav·el | \ ˌən-ˈra-vəl \
unraveled or unravelled; unraveling or unravelling

Kids Definition of unravel

1 : to separate the threads of : untangle

2 : solve She unraveled the mystery.

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More from Merriam-Webster on unravel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unravel

Spanish Central: Translation of unravel

Nglish: Translation of unravel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unravel for Arabic Speakers

Comments on unravel

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


occurring twice a year or every two years

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