Try Our Apps


The Best Internet Slang


[uhn-les, uh n-] /ʌnˈlɛs, ən-/
except under the circumstances that:
I'll be there at nine, unless the train is late.
except; but; save:
Nothing will come of it, unless disaster.
Origin of unless
1400-50; late ME prepositional phrase on less (also o less(e), earlier upon less) on a lesser footing or condition (than); first used as a preposition and conjunction in the early 16th century; see on, less Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for unless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "unless it should be his gracious pleasure to dispense with obedience," replied Artaphernes.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • But unless he did something a hundred lives perhaps might be lost.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • unless you do as I bid you, I will keep you in irons for the rest of the voyage!

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • "That'll be enough for us, unless you are very hungry," said Robert.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • unless we are fortunate enough to find some, retreat is inevitable.

British Dictionary definitions for unless


(subordinating) except under the circumstances that; except on the condition that: they'll sell it unless he hears otherwise
(rare) except
Word Origin
C14: onlesse, from onon + lesseless; compare French à moins que, literally: at less than
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for unless

mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from on lesse (than) "on a less condition (than)," the first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the lack of stress changed it to un-.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for unless

Most English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for unless

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for unless