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[uhn-rav-uh l] /ʌnˈræv əl/
verb (used with object), unraveled, unraveling or (especially British) unravelled, unravelling.
to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.).
to free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; solve:
to unravel a situation; to unravel a mystery.
Informal. to take apart; undo; destroy (a plan, agreement, or arrangement).
verb (used without object), unraveled, unraveling or (especially British) unravelled, unravelling.
to become unraveled.
Origin of unravel
First recorded in 1595-1605; un-2 + ravel
Related forms
unraveler; especially British, unraveller, noun
unravelment, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for unravel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • What if to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow brings no light to unravel this mystery?

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
  • The whole affair is a terrible mystery; be assured I will do my best to unravel it.

    The Cat of Bubastes G. A. Henty
  • What the police have failed to fathom, how can you hope to unravel?

    The Hound From The North Ridgwell Cullum
  • She has that sort of head that loves a hard knot to unravel!

    Barrington Charles James Lever
  • Of all the tangled webs ever I essayed to unravel, this is the knottiest.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for unravel


verb -els, -elling, -elled (US) -els, -eling, -eled
(transitive) to reduce (something knitted or woven) to separate strands
(transitive) to undo or untangle (something tangled or knotted)
(transitive) to explain or solve: the mystery was unravelled
(intransitive) to become unravelled
Derived Forms
unraveller, noun
unravelment, 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 unravel

c.1600, from un- (2) + ravel (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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