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[uhn-nohn] /ʌnˈnoʊn/
not known; not within the range of one's knowledge, experience, or understanding; strange; unfamiliar.
not discovered, explored, identified, or ascertained:
the unknown parts of Antarctica.
not widely known; not famous; obscure:
an unknown writer.
a thing, influence, area, factor, or person that is unknown:
the many unknowns in modern medicine; The director cast an unknown in the leading role.
Mathematics. a symbol representing an unknown quantity: in algebra, analysis, etc., frequently represented by a letter from the last part of the alphabet, as x, y, or z.
1250-1300; Middle English unknow(e)n. See un-1, known Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for unknown
  • Pain can be mysterious, untreatable and debilitating, and its causes can be unknown.
  • Percentages do not include faculty members whose race was unknown.
  • Scientists say the underwater hotspots may potentially host unique forms of life previously unknown to science.
  • But the creatures unearthed also include eight taxa previously unknown to science.
  • There is no known treatment for the disease, the cause of which is unknown.
  • The deaths have alarmed conservationists and triggered investigations, but the exact cause remains unknown.
  • Many unknown dinosaurs await discovery in rock formations all over the world, but some new species are hiding in plain sight.
  • Yet today the true health costs of the nuclear disaster are still unknown.
  • Even as scans get faster and cheaper, many diseases still have unknown or sketchy genetic correlates.
  • When the subject heard the police coming, he ran in an unknown direction.
British Dictionary definitions for unknown


not known, understood, or recognized
not established, identified, or discovered: an unknown island
not famous; undistinguished: some unknown artist
unknown quantity, a person or thing whose action, effect, etc, is unknown or unpredictable
an unknown person, quantity, or thing
(maths) a variable, or the quantity it represents, the value of which is to be discovered by solving an equation; a variable in a conditional equation: 3y = 4x + 5 is an equation in two unknowns
Derived Forms
unknownness, 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
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Word Origin and History for unknown

c.1300, "strange, unfamiliar" (of persons, places), from un- (1) "not" + past participle of know. Cf. Old English ungecnawen. In reference to facts, attested from early 14c. The noun meaning "unknown person" is recorded from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Nearby words for unknown