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  1. not settled; not fixed or stable; without established order; unorganized; disorganized: an unsettled social order; still unsettled in their new home.
  2. continuously moving or changing; not situated in one place: an unsettled life.
  3. wavering or uncertain, as in opinions or behavior; unstable; erratic: an unsettled state of mind.
  4. not populated or settled, as a region: an unsettled wilderness.
  5. undetermined, as a point at issue; undecided; doubtful: After many years the matter was still unsettled.
  6. not adjusted, closed, or disposed of, as an account, estate, or law case.
  7. liable to change; inconstant; variable: unsettled weather.
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Origin of unsettled

First recorded in 1585–95; un-1 + settle1 + -ed2
Related formsun·set·tled·ness, noun


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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. 5. indeterminate, unsure. 7. vacillating, fickle, faltering, irresolute.


1, 3. stable.


verb (used with object), un·set·tled, un·set·tling.
  1. to alter from a settled state; cause to be no longer firmly fixed or established; render unstable; disturb: Violence unsettled the government.
  2. to shake or weaken (beliefs, feelings, etc.); cause doubt or uncertainty about: doubts unsettling his religious convictions.
  3. to vex or agitate the mind or emotions of; upset; discompose: The quarrel unsettled her.
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verb (used without object), un·set·tled, un·set·tling.
  1. to become unfixed or disordered.
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Origin of unsettle

First recorded in 1535–45; un-2 + settle1


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for unsettled


  1. lacking order or stabilityan unsettled era
  2. unpredictable; uncertainan unsettled climate
  3. constantly changing or moving from place to placean unsettled life
  4. (of controversy, etc) not brought to an agreed conclusion
  5. (of debts, law cases, etc) not disposed of
  6. (of regions, etc) devoid of settlers
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Derived Formsunsettledness, noun


  1. (usually tr) to change or become changed from a fixed or settled condition
  2. (tr) to confuse or agitate (emotions, the mind, etc)
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Derived Formsunsettlement, 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 unsettled



1590s, "undo from a fixed position, from un- (2) + settle (v.). Of the mind, feelings, etc., attested from 1640s. Unsettled "not peaceful, not firmly established" is recorded from 1590s. Meaning "not occupied by settlers" is attested from 1724. Related: Unsettled; unsettling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper