[uhn-rav-uh l]
See more synonyms for unravel on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), un·rav·eled, un·rav·el·ing or (especially British) un·rav·elled, un·rav·el·ling.
  1. to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.).
  2. to free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; solve: to unravel a situation; to unravel a mystery.
  3. 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.
  1. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for unraveling

Contemporary Examples of unraveling

Historical Examples of unraveling

  • Why employ his slender thread of life in unraveling this intricate web.

    Oswald Langdon

    Carson Jay Lee

  • Then, as was his custom, he would begin an unraveling of the notion.

    Erik Dorn

    Ben Hecht

  • His mind was preoccupied with unraveling the mystery of Rita.

  • I am fond of unraveling puzzles, and I believe I can take this apart.

  • Unraveling the mystery surrounding an old hermit and a poor boy.

British Dictionary definitions for unraveling


verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled
  1. (tr) to reduce (something knitted or woven) to separate strands
  2. (tr) to undo or untangle (something tangled or knotted)
  3. (tr) to explain or solvethe mystery was unravelled
  4. (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 unraveling



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper