un·​like·​ly | \ ˌən-ˈlī-klē How to pronounce unlikely (audio) \

Definition of unlikely

1 : not likely : improbable an unlikely outcome
2 : likely to fail : unpromising

Synonyms & Antonyms for unlikely



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of unlikely in a Sentence

He was an unlikely candidate for the position. A big city seems like an unlikely place to find wildlife. I received support from an unlikely ally.
Recent Examples on the Web Since Dutch society was relatively segregated, Jews were unlikely to have close non-Jewish friends who would help them find hiding places or support them in hiding. Ruth Franklin, The New York Review of Books, 11 May 2022 The findings, which were posted to a preprint server and have yet to be peer-reviewed, suggest that unvaccinated people are unlikely to have good protection against symptomatic illness. NBC News, 3 May 2022 The latest measures by the government, though an inconvenience, are unlikely to change that fundamental calculus. Megha Mandavia, WSJ, 3 May 2022 Elon Musk's Twitter takeover will, thanks to its $44 billion girth, be examined by antitrust regulators⁠—who are unlikely to have much of a problem with it, as the Tesla/SpaceX/Boring chief is no social-media mogul. David Meyer, Fortune, 26 Apr. 2022 The practice has a long history and appears unlikely to change, especially since most places of worship don’t have a lot of money. The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Apr. 2022 Even if money is a powerful form of leverage, the threat of losing it is unlikely to have a transformative effect on Orbán, at least in the short term. Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, 11 Apr. 2022 With Jim Carrey also back as the silly but hilariously evil Dr. Robotnik, the movie’s cartoonish violence clearly isn’t real, and most of the constant peril is unlikely to have a lasting impact on kids. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022 Another key factor is that Murkowski appears unlikely to have a strong Democratic challenger. Mike Debonis, Anchorage Daily News, 31 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unlikely.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of unlikely

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Learn More About unlikely

Time Traveler for unlikely

Time Traveler

The first known use of unlikely was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near unlikely




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for unlikely

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Unlikely.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unlikely. Accessed 21 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for unlikely


un·​like·​ly | \ ən-ˈlī-klē How to pronounce unlikely (audio) \
unlikelier; unlikeliest

Kids Definition of unlikely

1 : not likely an unlikely story
2 : not promising This is an unlikely place for fishing.

More from Merriam-Webster on unlikely

Nglish: Translation of unlikely for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unlikely for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!