[uhn-ee-kwuh l]


not equal; not of the same quantity, quality, value, rank, ability, etc.: People are unequal in their capacities.
not adequate, as in amount, power, ability, etc. (usually followed by to): strength unequal to the task.
not evenly proportioned or balanced; not having the parts alike or symmetrical: an unequal leaf.
uneven or variable in character, quality, etc.
Obsolete. inequitable; unfair; unjust.


unequals, persons or things not equal to each other: a contest between obvious unequals.

Origin of unequal

First recorded in 1525–35; un-1 + equal
Related formsun·e·qual·ly, adverbun·e·qual·ness, nounsub·un·e·qual, adjectivesub·un·e·qual·ly, adverbsub·un·e·qual·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unequal

Contemporary Examples of unequal

Historical Examples of unequal

  • It is an unequal bargain, where one side does all the loving.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • He saw, too, that she was stiffening herself as if for some unequal contest.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • But for my day's fast I should have been unequal to this, or to the crude output of their frying-pans.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He seemed fascinated and yet unequal to a straight look at me.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He did not dare express all his rancour, while he was unequal to suppressing it entirely.

    Homeward Bound

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for unequal



not equal in quantity, size, rank, value, etc
(foll by to) inadequate; insufficient
not evenly balanced
(of character, quality, etc) irregular; varying; inconsistent
(of a contest, etc) having competitors of different ability
obsolete unjust
Derived Formsunequally, adverb
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 unequal

1530s, "unjust, unfair," from un- (1) "not" + equal (adj.). Meaning "not the same in amount, size, quality, etc." is recorded from 1560s (inequal in this sense is from late 14c.). Sense of "inadequate, insufficient" (to some task) is attested from 1690s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper