[ yoo-neek ]
See synonyms for unique on Thesaurus.com
  1. existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.

  2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.

  1. limited in occurrence to a given class, situation, or area: a species unique to Australia.

  2. limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities: Certain types of problems have unique solutions.

  3. not typical; unusual: She has a very unique smile.

  1. the embodiment of unique characteristics; the only specimen of a given kind: The unique is also the improbable.

Origin of unique

First recorded in 1595–1605; from French, from Latin ūnicus, equivalent to ūn(us) “one” + -icus -ic

usage note For unique

Many authors of usage guides, editors, teachers, and others feel strongly that such “absolute” words as complete, equal, perfect, and especially unique cannot be compared because of their “meaning”: a word that denotes an absolute condition cannot be described as denoting more or less than that absolute condition. However, all such words have undergone semantic development and are used in a number of senses, some of which can be compared by words like more, very, most, absolutely, somewhat, and totally and some of which cannot.
The earliest meanings of unique when it entered English around the beginning of the 17th century were “single, sole” and “having no equal.” By the mid-19th century unique had developed a wider meaning, “not typical, unusual,” and it is in this wider sense that it is compared: The foliage on the late-blooming plants is more unique than that on the earlier varieties. The comparison of so-called absolutes in senses that are not absolute is standard in all varieties of speech and writing.
See also a1, complete, perfect.

Other words from unique

  • u·nique·ly, adverb
  • u·nique·ness, noun
  • non·u·nique, adjective
  • non·u·nique·ly, adverb

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

British Dictionary definitions for unique


/ (juːˈniːk) /

  1. being the only one of a particular type; single; sole

  2. without equal or like; unparalleled

  1. informal very remarkable or unusual

  2. maths

    • leading to only one result: the sum of two integers is unique

    • having precisely one value: the unique positive square root of 4 is 2

Origin of unique

C17: via French from Latin ūnicus unparalleled, from ūnus one

usage For unique

Unique is normally taken to describe an absolute state, i.e. one that cannot be qualified. Thus something is either unique or not unique; it cannot be rather unique or very unique. However, unique is sometimes used informally to mean very remarkable or unusual and this makes it possible to use comparatives or intensifiers with it, although many people object to this use

Derived forms of unique

  • uniquely, adverb
  • uniqueness, 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