[uhn-rav-uh l]

verb (used with object), un·rav·eled, un·rav·el·ing or (especially British) un·rav·elled, un·rav·el·ling.

to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.).
to free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; solve: to unravel a situation; to unravel a mystery.
Informal. to take apart; undo; destroy (a plan, agreement, or arrangement).

verb (used without object), un·rav·eled, un·rav·el·ing or (especially British) un·rav·elled, un·rav·el·ling.

to become unraveled.

Origin of unravel

First recorded in 1595–1605; un-2 + ravel
Related formsun·rav·el·er; especially British, un·rav·el·ler, nounun·rav·el·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unravel

Contemporary Examples of unravel

Historical Examples of unravel

  • What if to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow brings no light to unravel this mystery?

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • The whole affair is a terrible mystery; be assured I will do my best to unravel it.

  • What the police have failed to fathom, how can you hope to unravel?

  • She has that sort of head that loves a hard knot to unravel!


    Charles James Lever

  • Of all the tangled webs ever I essayed to unravel, this is the knottiest.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for unravel


verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled

(tr) to reduce (something knitted or woven) to separate strands
(tr) to undo or untangle (something tangled or knotted)
(tr) to explain or solvethe mystery was unravelled
(intr) to become unravelled
Derived Formsunraveller, noununravelment, 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 unravel

c.1600, from un- (2) + ravel (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper