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

Ultimately, Magic for Liars is a great debut for Gailey, with fun characters, an interesting mystery to unravel, and a unique spin on the magical noir genre. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Magic for Liars blends magic school with a murder mystery," 15 June 2019 The fact that Ortiz is a national hero there (not to mention in New England and elsewhere in the U.S.) makes it even more likely law enforcement will spare no expense to unravel what happened. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "David Ortiz Shooting Doesn't Look Like an Attempted Robbery," 10 June 2019 The concert’s proposed location at Williwaw Lakes, a popular hiking destination about 6 miles from the Glen Alps trailhead, was ultimately what caused it to unravel. Author: Madeline Mcgee, Anchorage Daily News, "Can Chugach State Park be a music venue? Backcountry concert prompts officials to rethink event permitting," 10 June 2019 Thus, understanding what the mantle is made of is a huge piece in the puzzle to unravel the lunar interior structure and composition. Jonathan O'callaghan, Scientific American, "From the Lunar Far Side, China’s Rover Reveals the Moon’s Hidden Depths," 15 May 2019 Recent swings in the stock market are threatening to unravel multibillion-dollar bets that rely on calm markets, potentially adding to investors’ jitters over the past week. Akane Otani, WSJ, "Volatility in Stocks Could Unravel Bets on Calm Markets," 12 May 2019 The truce unraveled in recent weeks, triggering a wave of displacement within the southwestern Daraa province and along the border with Jordan. chicagotribune.com, "Barrage of airstrikes hit rebel-held areas in southwestern Syria; at least 17 dead," 28 June 2018 Consciousness is no longer grounded in the body; perception and sensation are unraveling. Parul Sehgal, New York Times, "What the Living Can Learn by Looking Death Straight in the Eye," 26 June 2018 No wonder the De Niro's, the Madonna's, the Depp's, the Fonda's all unravel. Fox News, "GOP delays House vote on 'compromise' immigration bill," 22 June 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

19 Jun 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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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