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[rav-uh l] /ˈræv əl/
verb (used with object), raveled, raveling or (especially British) ravelled, ravelling.
to disentangle or unravel the threads or fibers of (a woven or knitted fabric, rope, etc.).
to tangle or entangle.
to involve; confuse; perplex.
to make clear; unravel (often followed by out).
verb (used without object), raveled, raveling or (especially British) ravelled, ravelling.
to become disjoined thread by thread or fiber by fiber; fray.
to become tangled.
to become confused or perplexed.
(of a road surface) to lose aggregate.
a tangle or complication.
Origin of ravel
1575-85; < Dutch rafelen
Related forms
raveler; especially British, raveller, noun
ravelly, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for raveled
Historical Examples
  • The raveled waste can often be used as filling for the ends of rugs if it is wound as it is pulled from the carpet rags.

    How to make rugs Candace Wheeler
  • We cannot count on raveled threads of age Whereof to weave a fabric.

    Custer, and Other Poems. Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  • I stood awaiting them in a raveled, mud-smeared suit of pajamas which at their best had never been ostentatious.

    The Portal of Dreams Charles Neville Buck
  • His work, like Penelope's web, is raveled out about as fast as it is woven.

    The Old World in the New Edward Alsworth Ross
  • “To every coat of arms, the raveled sleeve of care,” observes Marmaduke sort of casual.

    Odd Numbers Sewell Ford
  • She would be glad to "knit up Care's raveled sleeve," or the hose for a fire-company.

    The World on Wheels and Other Sketches Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) Taylor
  • She closed in the rents and then darned the raveled places with bits of the thread pulled from the coat itself.

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
  • To get rid of them the beds are swept over with a tangle, which is an iron bar holding swabs of raveled rope.

    The Sea-beach at Ebb-tide Augusta Foote Arnold
  • Jeannette found two bits of raveled rope, hanging from a nail.

    The Cinder Pond Carroll Watson Rankin
  • She looked at the floor and rubbed the scaled toe of her slipper against the raveled blue nap of the carpet.

    The Narrow House Evelyn Scott
British Dictionary definitions for raveled


verb -els, -elling, -elled (US) -els, -eling, -eled
to tangle (threads, fibres, etc) or (of threads, fibres, etc) to become entangled
(often foll by out) to tease or draw out (the fibres of a fabric or garment) or (of a garment or fabric) to fray out in loose ends; unravel
(transitive) usually foll by out. to disentangle or resolve: to ravel out a complicated story
to break up (a road surface) in patches or (of a road surface) to begin to break up; fret; scab
(archaic) to make or become confused or complicated
a tangle or complication
Derived Forms
raveller, noun
ravelly, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Middle Dutch ravelen


/French ravɛl/
Maurice (Joseph) (mɔris). 1875–1937, French composer, noted for his use of unresolved dissonances and mastery of tone colour. His works include Gaspard de la Nuit (1908) and Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917) for piano, Boléro (1928) for orchestra, and the ballet Daphnis et Chloé (1912)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for raveled



1580s, "to untangle, disentangle, unwind" (originally with out), also "to entangle, become tangled or confused," from Dutch ravelen "to tangle, fray," rafelen "to unweave," from rafel "frayed thread." The seemingly contradictory senses of this word (ravel and unravel are both synonyms and antonyms) are reconciled by its roots in weaving and sewing: as threads become unwoven, they get tangled.


1630s, "a tangle;" 1832, "a broken thread," from ravel (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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