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verb (used with object)
  1. to bring out of a folded state; spread or open out: Unfold your arms.
  2. to spread out or lay open to view.
  3. to reveal or display.
  4. to reveal or disclose in words, especially by careful or systematic exposition; set forth; explain.
verb (used without object)
  1. to become unfolded; open.
  2. to develop.
  3. to become clear, apparent, or known: The protagonist's character unfolds as the story reaches its climax.

Origin of unfold

before 900; Middle English unfolden, Old English unfealdan; cognate with German entfalten. See un-2, fold1
Related formsun·fold·a·ble, adjectiveun·fold·er, nounun·fold·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for unfold


  1. to open or spread out or be opened or spread out from a folded state
  2. to reveal or be revealedthe truth unfolds
  3. to develop or expand or be developed or expanded
Derived Formsunfolder, 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

Word Origin and History for unfold

Old English unfealdan, "to open or unwrap the folds of," also figuratively, "to disclose, reveal," from un- (2) "opposite of" + fold (v.). Cf. Middle Dutch ontvouden, German entfalten. Intransitive sense is attested from late 14c. Related: Unfolded; unfolding.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper