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[yoo-neek] /yuˈnik/
existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics:
a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable:
Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
limited in occurrence to a given class, situation, or area:
a species unique to Australia.
limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities:
Certain types of problems have unique solutions.
not typical; unusual:
She has a very unique smile.
the embodiment of unique characteristics; the only specimen of a given kind:
The unique is also the improbable.
1595-1605; < French < Latin ūnicus, equivalent to ūn(us) one + -icus -ic
Related forms
uniquely, adverb
uniqueness, noun
nonunique, adjective
nonuniquely, adverb
nonuniqueness, noun
ununique, adjective
ununiquely, adverb
ununiqueness, noun
Usage note
Many authors of usage guides, editors, teachers, and others feel strongly that such “absolute” words as complete, equal, perfect, and especially unique cannot be compared because of their “meaning”: a word that denotes an absolute condition cannot be described as denoting more or less than that absolute condition. However, all such words have undergone semantic development and are used in a number of senses, some of which can be compared by words like more, very, most, absolutely, somewhat, and totally and some of which cannot.
The earliest meanings of unique when it entered English around the beginning of the 17th century were “single, sole” and “having no equal.” By the mid-19th century unique had developed a wider meaning, “not typical, unusual,” and it is in this wider sense that it is compared: The foliage on the late-blooming plants is more unique than that on the earlier varieties. The comparison of so-called absolutes in senses that are not absolute is standard in all varieties of speech and writing.
See also a1, complete, perfect. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for unique
  • His work is the masterpiece of its kind, unique and incomparable.
  • It is well organized and the gardens are unique as well as beautiful.
  • Astronomers have discovered a unique set of triplets: an asteroid with two moons orbiting it.
  • The traditional view of proteins is that, right after being synthesized, they must fold into a unique shape to function properly.
  • Thirty-two subjects were fed a green-colored, lavender-scented strawberry milk-an odd concoction designed to taste unique.
  • The ability to distinguish between two different languages is not unique to humans.
  • Perhaps they could also use this to find a target unique to all strains of staph and then engineer a phage to exploit it.
  • Free-floating messages in the bloodstream could soon provide a unique window into the body.
  • The ribbon eel has a unique appearance: trumpetlike nostrils and a lower jaw with three tentacles.
  • Cutting a swath through some breathtaking landscapes, these railways offer a unique window on the world.
British Dictionary definitions for unique


being the only one of a particular type; single; sole
without equal or like; unparalleled
(informal) very remarkable or unusual
  1. leading to only one result: the sum of two integers is unique
  2. having precisely one value: the unique positive square root of 4 is 2
Derived Forms
uniquely, adverb
uniqueness, noun
Usage note
Unique is normally taken to describe an absolute state, i.e. one that cannot be qualified. Thus something is either unique or not unique; it cannot be rather unique or very unique. However, unique is sometimes used informally to mean very remarkable or unusual and this makes it possible to use comparatives or intensifiers with it, although many people object to this use
Word Origin
C17: via French from Latin ūnicus unparalleled, from ūnus one
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
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Word Origin and History for unique

c.1600, "single, solitary," from French unique, from Latin unicus "single, sole," from unus "one" (see one). Meaning "forming the only one of its kind" is attested from 1610s; erroneous sense of "remarkable, uncommon" is attested from mid-19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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unique in Technology

A portable job control language.
["The UNIQUE Command Language - Portable Job Control", I.A. Newman, Proc DATAFAIR 73, 1973, pp. 353-357].

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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