inadvertent; unintentional; accidental: His insult, though unwitting, pained her.
not knowing; unaware; ignorant; oblivious; unconscious: an unwitting person.

Origin of unwitting

before 900; Middle English; Old English unwittende; see un-1, wit2, -ing2
Related formsun·wit·ting·ly, adverbun·wit·ting·ness, noun



verb (used with object), un·wit·ted, un·wit·ting.

Obsolete. to render devoid of wit; derange.

Origin of unwit

First recorded in 1595–1605; un-2 + wit1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unwitting

Contemporary Examples of unwitting

Historical Examples of unwitting

  • I followed thee to thy prison, unwitting it would turn into a palace.

  • With that water aged Iapix washed the wound, unwitting; and suddenly, lo!

  • And did he look so pityingly as you describe, and bless me as I was praying, unwitting of his presence?

    The Golden Dog

    William Kirby

  • He is no more in a strait betwixt two, or unwitting what he shall choose.

  • For one second she saw the unwitting, involuntary response in his eyes.

    It Pays to Smile

    Nina Wilcox Putnam

British Dictionary definitions for unwitting


adjective (usually prenominal)

not knowing or conscious
not intentional; inadvertent
Derived Formsunwittingly, adverbunwittingness, noun

Word Origin for unwitting

Old English unwitende, from un- 1 + witting, present participle of witan to know; related to Old High German wizzan to know, Old Norse vita
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 unwitting

Old English unwitende, from un- (1) "not" + witting. Cf. Old High German unwizzanti, German unwissend, Old Norse uvitandi, Gothic unwitands. Rare after c.1600; revived c.1800.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper