[ rav-uhl ]
See synonyms for ravel on Thesaurus.com
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.

  1. to involve; confuse; perplex.

  2. to make clear; unravel (often followed by out).

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.

  1. to become confused or perplexed.

  2. (of a road surface) to lose aggregate.

  1. a tangle or complication.

Origin of ravel

First recorded in 1575–85, ravel is from the Dutch word rafelen

Other words from ravel

  • rav·el·er; especially British, rav·el·ler, noun
  • rav·el·ly, adjective

Other definitions for Ravel (2 of 2)

[ ruh-vel; French ra-vel ]

  1. Mau·rice Jo·seph [moh-reeszhaw-zef], /moʊˈris ʒɔˈzɛf/, 1875–1937, French composer.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ravel in a sentence

  • Their sides he attached as cross-bars to others, by means of strings ravelled from the canvas of the tapestries.

    The False Chevalier | William Douw Lighthall
  • Photographs of this ravelled cable were for a long time exhibited as a curiosity in the windows of Messrs. Newall & Co's.

  • I wanted only to pick at a single knot; but when I had got that undone, the whole thing ravelled out.

    Ghosts | Henrik Ibsen
  • Italy is so tender—like cooked macaroni—yards and yards of soft tenderness ravelled round everything.

    Sea and Sardinia | D. H. Lawrence
  • “I love you—I love you—” until at last sleep helped to knit up the ravelled sleave of care.

    Olive in Italy | Moray Dalton

British Dictionary definitions for ravel (1 of 2)


/ (ˈrævəl) /

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

  1. (tr usually foll by out) to disentangle or resolve: to ravel out a complicated story

  2. to break up (a road surface) in patches or (of a road surface) to begin to break up; fret; scab

  3. archaic to make or become confused or complicated

  1. a tangle or complication

Origin of ravel

C16: from Middle Dutch ravelen

Derived forms of ravel

  • raveller, noun
  • ravelly, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for Ravel (2 of 2)


/ (French ravɛl) /

  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)

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