un·​tan·​gle ˌən-ˈtaŋ-gəl How to pronounce untangle (audio)
untangled; untangling; untangles

transitive verb

: to loose from tangles or entanglement : straighten out
untangle a knot
untangle a mystery
Choose the Right Synonym for untangle

extricate, disentangle, untangle, disencumber, disembarrass mean to free from what binds or holds back.

extricate implies the use of care or ingenuity in freeing from a difficult position or situation.

extricated himself from financial difficulties

disentangle and untangle suggest painstaking separation of a thing from other things.

disentangling fact from fiction
untangle a web of deceit

disencumber implies a release from something that clogs or weighs down.

an article disencumbered of jargon

disembarrass suggests a release from something that impedes or hinders.

disembarrassed herself of her advisers

Examples of untangle in a Sentence

She carefully untangled the child's hair. He untangled the garden hose.
Recent Examples on the Web The proposal comes as the Big Four accounting firm continues to work to untangle the mess left by its decision in April to scrap plans to split auditing and consulting into two different firms. Mark Maurer, WSJ, 6 Nov. 2023 In any biopic, there are bound to be creative deviations from the strictly factual but with a subject like Nyad, who has been proven to be an occasionally unreliable narrator of her own life story, such questions are particularly tricky to untangle. Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 2023 The finding is in line with other research, such as a study in Nature in 2021 that analyzed 2,000 years’ worth of Chinese history, untangling the relationship between climate disruptions and the collapse of dynasties. WIRED, 21 Oct. 2023 As in most subjects related to content moderation, untangling the various equities involved can be very difficult. Casey Newton, The Verge, 20 Oct. 2023 Trying to untangle a half-billion-dollar estate is a formidable task under the best of circumstances. Ava Benny-Morrison, Fortune, 17 Nov. 2023 For decades, scientists have been trying to untangle puzzling questions over male fertility. Evan Bush, NBC News, 15 Nov. 2023 All of it can feel like an impossible knot to untangle In this case, members of the team had to decide who was responsible for what happened in a server gone bad. Casey Newton, The Verge, 20 Oct. 2023 Large fees are common in corporate bankruptcies, which require complex and time-intensive legal work to untangle. Yiwen Lu, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'untangle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1550, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of untangle was in 1550

Dictionary Entries Near untangle

Cite this Entry

“Untangle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/untangle. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


un·​tan·​gle ˌən-ˈtaŋ-gəl How to pronounce untangle (audio)
: to remove a tangle from : disentangle
untangle a knot
: to straighten out : resolve
untangle a mystery

More from Merriam-Webster on untangle

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