• synonyms


  1. any cylindrical piece or device on which something is wound.
  2. a small cylindrical piece of wood or other material on which yarn is wound in spinning, for use in weaving; a bobbin.
  3. a small cylinder of wood or other material on which thread, wire, or tape is wound, typically expanded or with a rim at each end and having a hole lengthwise through the center.
  4. the material or quantity of material wound on such a device.
  5. Angling. the cylindrical drum in a reel that bears the line.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to wind on a spool.
  2. to unwind from a spool (usually followed by off or out).
  3. Computers. to operate (an input/output device) by using buffers in main and secondary storage.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to wind.
  2. to unwind.
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Origin of spool

1275–1325; Middle English spole < Middle Dutch spoele or Middle Low German spōle; cognate with German Spule
Related formsspool·er, nounspool·like, adjectiveun·spool, verb (used with object)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unspool

Contemporary Examples of unspool

British Dictionary definitions for unspool


  1. a device around which magnetic tape, film, cotton, etc, can be automatically wound, with plates at top and bottom to prevent it from slipping off
  2. anything round which other materials, esp thread, are wound
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  1. (sometimes foll by up) to wind or be wound onto a spool or reel
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Word Origin for spool

C14: of Germanic origin; compare Old High German spuolo, Middle Dutch spoele
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 unspool



early 14c., from Old North French spole, espole "a spool" (13c.), from Middle Dutch spoele "a spool," from Proto-Germanic *spolon (cf. Norwegian and Swedish spole, Old High German spuola, German Spule), from PIE root *spel- "to cleave, split" (see spoil).

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c.1600, from spool (n.). Related: Spooled; spooling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

unspool in Science


  1. To store data that is sent to a device, such as a printer, in a buffer that the device reads. This procedure allows the program that sent the data to the device to resume its normal operation without waiting for the device to process the data.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.