: being the only one : sole
his unique concern was his own comfort
I can't walk away with a unique copy. Suppose I lost it?Kingsley Amis
the unique factorization of a number into prime factors
: being without a like or equal : unequaled
… he could stare at the flames, each one new, violent, uniqueRobert Coover
: distinctively characteristic : peculiar sense 1
… this is not a condition unique to California …Ronald Reagan
: able to be distinguished from all others of its class or type : distinct sense 1
App Tracking works by Apple assigning a unique identifier to your device.Ben Lovejoy
You will see an assortment of digital tags that let the Web site identify your computer as a unique visitor.Peter H. Lewis
The site sees an average of 227 million unique users per month …West Hartford (Connecticut) News: Web Edition Articles
: unusual
a very unique ball-point pen
… we were fairly unique, the sixty of us, in that there wasn't one good mixer in the bunch.J. D. Salinger
uniquely adverb
uniqueness noun
Can something be very unique or somewhat unique?: Usage Guide

Many commentators have objected to the comparison or modification (as by somewhat or very) of unique, often asserting that a thing is either unique or it is not. Objections are based chiefly on the assumption that unique has but a single absolute sense, an assumption contradicted by information readily available in a dictionary. Unique dates back to the 17th century but was little used until the end of the 18th when, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was reacquired from French. H. J. Todd entered it as a foreign word in his edition (1818) of Johnson's Dictionary, characterizing it as "affected and useless." Around the middle of the 19th century it ceased to be considered foreign and came into considerable popular use. With popular use came a broadening of application beyond the original two meanings (here numbered senses 1 and 2a). In modern use both comparison and modification are widespread and standard but are confined to the extended senses 2b and 3. When sense 1 or sense 2a is intended, unique is used without qualifying modifiers.

Choose the Right Synonym for unique

strange, singular, unique, peculiar, eccentric, erratic, odd, quaint, outlandish mean departing from what is ordinary, usual, or to be expected.

strange stresses unfamiliarity and may apply to the foreign, the unnatural, the unaccountable.

a journey filled with strange sights

singular suggests individuality or puzzling strangeness.

a singular feeling of impending disaster

unique implies singularity and the fact of being without a known parallel.

a career unique in the annals of science

peculiar implies a marked distinctiveness.

the peculiar status of America's First Lady

eccentric suggests a wide divergence from the usual or normal especially in behavior.

the eccentric eating habits of preschoolers

erratic stresses a capricious and unpredictable wandering or deviating.

a friend's suddenly erratic behavior

odd applies to a departure from the regular or expected.

an odd sense of humor

quaint suggests an old-fashioned but pleasant oddness.

a quaint fishing village

outlandish applies to what is uncouth, bizarre, or barbaric.

outlandish fashions of the time

Example Sentences

There are no clear blueprints to be discovered in history that can help us shape the future as we wish. Each historical event is a unique congeries of factors, people, or chronology. Margaret McMillan, Dangerous Games, 2008
[Tiger] Wood's unique skill set was on display again at last week's U.S. Open, but this victory was more visceral. It was all heart. Alan Shipnuck, Sports Illustrated, 23 June 2008
Space is a strange and unique item—you can't take it to a lab and analyze it like beef jerky. Bob Berman, Astronomy, November 2007
A century ago a doctor was considered to be part of a social elite. He—and medicine was then very much a masculine endeavor—had a unique mastery of a special body of knowledge. He professed a commitment to levels of competence and integrity that he expected society to respect and trust. Richard Horton, New York Review of Books, 31 May 2007
Most stars are not born in isolation but instead in groups of several thousand to tens of thousands, all of which emerge from the same parent cloud of gas. Each cloud has a unique and homogeneous mix of chemical elements and isotopes, which its stellar progeny inherits. Even when the stars disperse, they retain their unique chemical tag … Rodrigo Ibata et al., Scientific American, April 2007
As a dozen new books will testify, our nation is in the midst of a great barbecue renaissance, with each region proudly claiming its own unique style. Ruth Reichl, Gourmet, July 2005
She's in the unique position of running for office against her husband. Humans are unique among mammals in several respects. See More
Recent Examples on the Web At the celebration, every rendition of the LBD was unique. Leah Dolan, CNN, 28 Apr. 2023 Apparently my situation was not unique. Janine Di Giovanni, Town & Country, 28 Apr. 2023 But some of Intel's problems are unique. Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica, 28 Apr. 2023 What makes the metal potting bench unique, besides the style, is the collapsible design. Tom Price, Popular Mechanics, 28 Apr. 2023 Seriously, with so many retailers to choose from, the possibility of finding something unique, special and even handmade is almost endless. Cailey Lindberg, goodhousekeeping.com, 23 Apr. 2023 The job is unique, influential and lucrative, and these masters of midnight can still laugh all the way to the bank. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 17 Apr. 2023 While the sail’s provenance ensured that every bag would be unique, the actual construction allows for each to be visually distinct. Eric Twardzik, Robb Report, 14 Apr. 2023 Some teachers and students described a unique, calming and rewarding learning environment for those who did take part. Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French, from Latin unicus, from unus one — more at one

First Known Use

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of unique was in 1601

Dictionary Entries Near unique

Cite this Entry

“Unique.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unique. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


: being the only one of its kind
: very unusual : notable
his talent is unique
: being the one and only possible result of one or more mathematical operations
a unique solution
also : having only one possible result
addition of integers is unique
uniquely adverb
uniqueness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on unique

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