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[uhn-lahyk-lee] /ʌnˈlaɪk li/
adjective, unlikelier, unlikeliest.
not likely to be or occur; improbable; marked by doubt.
holding little prospect of success; unpromising; likely to fail:
He is an unlikely candidate for reelection.
not ingratiating; objectionable.
in an unlikely way.
Origin of unlikely
First recorded in 1325-75, unlikely is from the Middle English word unlikli. See un-1, likely
Related forms
unlikeliness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for unlikely
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The arrangements your father has made is one of provision against the unlikely.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • Such a proceeding was not unlikely; it was not, however, the one she adopted.

  • Diligent enquiry there, in likely and unlikely places, proved fruitless.

    The Inn at the Red Oak Latta Griswold
  • At this time he is not unlikely to eat our sprouting lettuce and peas.

    The Meaning of Evolution Samuel Christian Schmucker
  • Of course there was a chance that he might encounter the latter, but he thought it unlikely.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for unlikely


not likely; improbable
Derived Forms
unlikeliness, unlikelihood, noun
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 unlikely

late 14c., "not likely to occur," from un- (1) + likely. Cf. Old Norse ulikligr, Middle Danish uligelig. Meaning "not likely to be true" is recorded from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with unlikely


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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