[ uhn-set-ld ]
/ ʌnˈsɛt ld /
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Origin of unsettled

First recorded in 1585–95; un-1 + settle1 + -ed2

synonym study for unsettled

3. Unsettled, unstable, unsteady imply a lack of fixity, firmness, and dependability. That which is unsettled is not fixed or determined: unsettled weather; unsettled claims. That which is unstable is wavering, changeable; easily moved, shaken, or overthrown: unstable equilibrium; an unstable decision. That which is unsteady is infirm or shaky in position or movement: unsteady on one's feet; unsteady of purpose.


un·set·tled·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does unsettled mean?

Something that is unsettled is not stable or is unorganized, as in While the contractor works on the kitchen, all of our kitchen things are unsettled.

Unsettled is most often used figuratively to mean undecided, unadjusted, or wavering. Someone who is unsettled is normally disturbed by some type of imagery or by a decision they have made. They may be unable to focus or have a lot of different emotions—they feel unsettled.

Literally, something that is unsettled is off balance, moving constantly, or unstable. A building slowly sliding down a hill is an example of a structure that has become unsettled. Unsettled can apply to anything that moves, such as animals, vehicles, or even rainclouds. When you say movement is unsettled, you’re saying the movement is erratic.

Unsettled land is land where no one or very few people live. 

Example: That scary movie made me so unsettled that I couldn’t sleep for a week.

Where does unsettled come from?

The first records of the term unsettled come from the 1580s. It combines the prefix un meaning “not,” the English word settle, meaning “to appoint or fix,” and the suffix ed, which creates adjectives out of verbs.

You might hear someone described as unsettled to mean they have no stable home or base. The term unsettled is sometimes used to describe refugees or migrants from warring nations who are forced to leave their homes. The 2019 movie Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America is an example of this usage. The film deals with several LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing their home nations to live in a more accepting United States.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to unsettled?

  • unsettledness (noun)

What are some synonyms for unsettled?

What are some words that share a root or word element with unsettled

What are some words that often get used in discussing unsettled?

How is unsettled used in real life?

Unsettled is most often used to describe how a person feels about something.


Try using unsettled!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for unsettled?

A. uneasy
B. uncertain
C. calm
D. restless

How to use unsettled in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for unsettled

/ (ʌnˈsɛtəld) /

lacking order or stabilityan unsettled era
unpredictable; uncertainan unsettled climate
constantly changing or moving from place to placean unsettled life
(of controversy, etc) not brought to an agreed conclusion
(of debts, law cases, etc) not disposed of
(of regions, etc) devoid of settlers

Derived forms of unsettled

unsettledness, 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