un·​rav·​el | \ ˌən-ˈra-vəl How to pronounce unravel (audio) \
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 Things started to unravel quickly as other foreigners who lived or were staying in Palma began arriving at the hotel, looking for shelter. Vasco Cotovio, Tim Lister And David Mckenzie, CNN, "'We spent the night under heavy fire,' recalls survivor after terrifying escape from Islamists in Mozambique," 3 Apr. 2021 A day after the shootings, investigators were trying to unravel what might have compelled 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long to commit the worst mass killing in the U.S. in almost two years. Time, "Man Charged With Killing 8 People, 6 of Them Asian Women, at Massage Parlors in Georgia," 18 Mar. 2021 A day after the shootings, investigators were trying to unravel what might have compelled 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long to commit the worst mass killing in the U.S. in almost two years. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Man charged with killing eight people at Georgia massage parlors," 17 Mar. 2021 So far, San Francisco has only focused on stabilizing people who are housed, but at some point started to unravel in a mental health crisis, with outpatient treatment. Mallory Moench, San Francisco Chronicle, "S.F. tries new approach to get those with severe mental illness into treatment," 12 Mar. 2021 Even before the changes were announced last month, lenders were trying to unravel extensive errors and data verification problems that had stalled tens of thousands of applications. New York Times, "Looming Deadline and Last-Minute Changes Hinder P.P.P. Loans," 9 Mar. 2021 Prosecutors said told a federal judge in Chicago on Thursday that investigators were still trying to unravel the scope of the fraud, which involved financial transactions in Illinois, New York and Georgia. Jason Meisner, chicagotribune.com, "‘You got them Trump licks?’ Chicago brothers target COVID-19 stimulus checks in scheme to steal mail, feds say," 6 Nov. 2020 As the end of the pandemic seems to be coming into sight, the riddle of H.I.V. in Pakistan is a crucial one to unravel in order to understand how to resume progress on global health in the post-Covid era. New York Times, "The City Losing Its Children to H.I.V.," 31 Mar. 2021 Of course, Mobley still dominated defensively and passed deftly out of double teams, his presence alone enough to unravel opposing game plans. Houston Mitchell Assistant Sports Editor, Los Angeles Times, "The Sports Report: Clippers rout the Bucks," 30 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for unravel

Time Traveler

The first known use of unravel was in 1603

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Statistics for unravel

Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Unravel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unravel. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce unravel (audio) \
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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Comments on unravel

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