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

While chronobiologists continue to unravel the complete mysteries of time–cellular interactions, the oldest advice remains the best: Get more sleep and spend more time outdoors. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "Why You Should Have Heart Surgery in the Afternoon," 26 Dec. 2018 Thousands of years from now, the plastic action figures will be dug up by future archaeologists who will rack their brains trying to unravel their significance. Steve Brykman, Ars Technica, "Forget Fortnite—my son is still obsessed with Minecraft," 16 Dec. 2018 But there are limited retail locations and providers are still trying to unravel a mixed bag of regulations across the country. Paul Page, WSJ, "Today’s Logistics Report: Uber’s Loaded Trailers; JD.com Seeking Packages; ‘Self-Declared’ Postal Rates," 18 Oct. 2018 For years scientists have tried to unravel the biology behind this mysterious phenomenon. Esther Landhuis, Scientific American, "Could Brain Stimulation Slow Cancer?," 13 July 2018 Khorana’s fundamental work helps unravel the genetic code. Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "UW scientific advances include vitamins, growing human embryonic stem cells in lab," 12 July 2018 Scientists are trying to unravel the complex web of threats to bee populations. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Why are these 250,000 bees hanging out on this sweet Downtown Boise rooftop?," 11 July 2018 The Trump administration has also used its executive powers to try to unravel the law — for example, by proposing to allow insurers to sell skimpy plans that lack Obamacare’s consumer protections. Eric Patashnik, Washington Post, "Republicans are still trying to repeal Obamacare. Here’s why they are not likely to succeed," 13 June 2018 Known as Amy, the shark is one of several being tracked by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, a research and education effort that is working to unravel mysteries surrounding the behavior and biology of white sharks along the East Coast. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "A 10-foot great white shark is lurking off the Outer Banks | Charlotte Observer," 27 Apr. 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

13 Feb 2019

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).


very full or close together

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