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 He was forced to work in a coal mine until the Nazi war machine began to unravel, and he was liberated in Germany by American troops. Danica Kirka, The Christian Science Monitor, "Wisdom from WWII vets as COVID-19 puts V-E Day on hold," 8 May 2020 The scheme began to unravel in 2016, when the person whose Social Security number Roeglin had used to create the fake employee tried to file his income tax return and was informed one had already been submitted. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Payroll executive charged with embezzling more than $476,000 from Glendale firm," 13 Jan. 2020 Another researcher at Duke, an infectious disease specialist and immunologist named Dr. Barton Haynes, had spent years unraveling the mysteries of the thymus. Eric Boodman, STAT, "Families are reeling after FDA rejects therapy for kids born without a thymus gland," 6 Dec. 2019 Claire returns as a ghost and has to watch her husband and three children unravel without her, until her family slowly begins to be able to see her spirit. Pomerado News, "Poway resident publishes first novel," 26 Sep. 2019 What happens when a journalist returns to her childhood school district to find the great racial strides of the 1970’s unraveling? Christian Science Monitor, "EqualEd," 7 June 2019 Between sneaking chocolate chips and sampling cookies, the 2-year-old unraveled in a sugar crash meltdown. Marisa Bardach Ramel, Better Homes & Gardens, "Baking With My Kids Reminds Me Life Is Messy But Wonderful, Too," 1 May 2020 In this surreal story, three brothers meet for the first time, but the celebration doesn't last long as the truth about their shady adoption story begins to unravel. Serena Tara, Marie Claire, "Unmissable Documentaries on Hulu Right Now," 14 Apr. 2020 But the destination wedding, nine months in the making, unraveled in a matter of days. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Love, Marriage, and Canceled Honeymoons: How Couples Are Adjusting Amid Coronavirus," 8 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler for unravel

Time Traveler

The first known use of unravel was in 1603

See more words from the same year

Statistics for unravel

Last Updated

21 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unravel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unravel. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unravel


How to pronounce unravel (audio)

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!