• synonyms


[rav-uh l]
verb (used with object), rav·eled, rav·el·ing or (especially British) rav·elled, rav·el·ling.
  1. to disentangle or unravel the threads or fibers of (a woven or knitted fabric, rope, etc.).
  2. to tangle or entangle.
  3. to involve; confuse; perplex.
  4. to make clear; unravel (often followed by out).
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verb (used without object), rav·eled, rav·el·ing or (especially British) rav·elled, rav·el·ling.
  1. to become disjoined thread by thread or fiber by fiber; fray.
  2. to become tangled.
  3. to become confused or perplexed.
  4. (of a road surface) to lose aggregate.
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  1. a tangle or complication.
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Origin of ravel

First recorded in 1575–85, ravel is from the Dutch word rafelen
Related formsrav·el·er; especially British, rav·el·ler, nounrav·el·ly, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

unwind, loosen, disentangle, free, untangle, unravel, untwist, unweave, untwine, unsnarl, unbraid

Examples from the Web for raveled

Historical Examples

  • We cannot count on raveled threads of age Whereof to weave a fabric.

    Custer, and Other Poems.

    Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  • Life has too little selvage; it is too often raw and raveled.

    The Face of the Fields

    Dallas Lore Sharp

  • 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

  • Jeannette found two bits of raveled rope, hanging from a nail.

    The Cinder Pond

    Carroll Watson Rankin

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for raveled


verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled
  1. to tangle (threads, fibres, etc) or (of threads, fibres, etc) to become entangled
  2. (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
  3. (tr usually foll by out) to disentangle or resolveto ravel out a complicated story
  4. to break up (a road surface) in patches or (of a road surface) to begin to break up; fret; scab
  5. archaic to make or become confused or complicated
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  1. a tangle or complication
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Derived Formsraveller, nounravelly, adjective

Word Origin

C16: from Middle Dutch ravelen


  1. 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)
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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

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.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper