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

Their escape plan rapidly unravels in this quicksand town and Mozaffari captures it all with a sense of breathless immediacy, a wildly roving handheld camera just trying to keep up. Katie Walsh, latimes.com, "Review: Canadian drama ‘Firecrackers’ marks the daring arrival of new talent," 11 July 2019 That case unraveled in 2008 after Epstein was offered a secret plea deal by federal prosecutors. Ali Watkins, BostonGlobe.com, "Sex-trafficking charges could put Jeffrey Epstein behind bars for 45 years," 7 July 2019 That case unraveled in 2008 after Mr. Epstein was offered a secret plea deal by federal prosecutors, one of whom is now in President Trump’s cabinet. New York Times, "Jeffrey Epstein Is Accused of Luring Girls to His Manhattan Mansion and Abusing Them," 7 July 2019 But that unraveled spectacularly under the scrutiny of Wall Street Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou. Ahiza Garcia, CNN, "Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes' trial set for summer 2020," 28 June 2019 Many of the bonds made up of these loans unraveled or dropped sharply in price. Ben Eisen, WSJ, "Mortgage Bond That Vanished During Financial Crisis Is Back," 24 June 2019 As well as DeSclafani pitched in the first two innings, things unraveled quickly in the Brewers’ five-run third inning. Bobby Nightengale, Cincinnati.com, "Anthony DeSclafani's start quickly unravels in the Cincinnati Reds' loss to Milwaukee Brewers," 23 June 2019 Coming unraveled because of a simple help defense concept? J. Michael, Indianapolis Star, "Despite an unpredictable NBA Draft coming up, Pacers ready to pounce at No. 18," 17 June 2019 The stories of Austin and Filipe were kind of unraveled through production, and not really planned. Mary Anne Potts, National Geographic, "Exploring the Rio Grande by horse, canoe, and mountain bike—before a wall," 17 June 2019

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

17 Jul 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 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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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).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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