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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

His outing unraveled four batters earlier when Cesar Hernandez botched a double-play turn at second base that would have ended the inning. Matt Breen, Philly.com, "Phillies shut out by Yankees as defense fails Jake Arrieta again," 26 June 2018 The scene unraveled while Randall Pearson (Sterling K. Brown) gave a speech at Kate's wedding. Madison Medeiros, refinery29.com, "Who Were Randall & Tess Talking About On The This Is Us Finale — We Have Some Theories," 14 Mar. 2018 That unraveled into a 45-21 Penn State lead at the half, the Lions' final three points coming in a sequence that perfectly summed up the first 20 minutes. Bill Landis, cleveland.com, "Ohio State basketball gets beat by Penn State again, this time a 79-56 rout," 16 Feb. 2018 On the verge of a big upset, the third period unraveled for the UAA hockey team on Friday night. Stephan Wiebe, Anchorage Daily News, "UAA stumbles in 3rd period in loss to No. 7 Minnesota State," 6 Jan. 2018 What’s more, if arms-control treaties continue to unravel, the U.S. could act to boost its nuclear stockpile, adding to the DoE’s environmental woes. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The Cost to Clean Up America’s Cold War Nuclear Waste Jumps to $377 Billion," 5 Feb. 2019 Props to him for speaking out—and continuing to unravel the stigma. Jennifer Lance, Glamour, "Kate Middleton's Brother James Wrote a Powerful Essay About Mental Health," 12 Jan. 2019 Raiu has been working to unravel the latest findings on one of the most mysterious cyber espionage operation in history: the Moonlight Maze, an initiative that targeted the Pentagon and NASA in the late 1990s. Andrada Fiscutean, Ars Technica, "The adventures of lab ED011—“Nobody would be able to duplicate what happened there”," 27 Aug. 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of unravel

1603, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unravel

Statistics for unravel

Last Updated

13 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unravel

The first known use of unravel was in 1603

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


a flaw that causes the downfall of a hero

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!