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[uhn-rav-uh l] /ʌnˈræv əl/
verb (used with object), unraveled, unraveling or (especially British) unravelled, unravelling.
to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.).
to free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; solve:
to unravel a situation; to unravel a mystery.
Informal. to take apart; undo; destroy (a plan, agreement, or arrangement).
verb (used without object), unraveled, unraveling or (especially British) unravelled, unravelling.
to become unraveled.
Origin of unravel
1595-1605; un-2 + ravel
Related forms
unraveler; especially British, unraveller, noun
unravelment, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for unravel
  • Soon after arriving, the promises made and the perceptions presented at the interview began to unravel.
  • Any reverse could unravel the political system they have created.
  • If that happens, the forest's ecology will begin to unravel.
  • New findings are helping to unravel why this is the case.
  • But for the archaeologists seeking to unravel its secrets, the clock is ticking.
  • Acquaintance is the tool humans use to draw inferences, to unravel ambiguities and fill in missing information.
  • The well-planned fantasy of my first pregnancy began to unravel during delivery.
  • Researchers unravel some long-standing mysteries of bar-headed geese, the world's highest-flying birds.
  • But attempts to unravel that history have produced many interpretations and arguments.
  • We may be at the point where that effort to blend the two has begun to unravel.
British Dictionary definitions for unravel


verb -els, -elling, -elled (US) -els, -eling, -eled
(transitive) to reduce (something knitted or woven) to separate strands
(transitive) to undo or untangle (something tangled or knotted)
(transitive) to explain or solve: the mystery was unravelled
(intransitive) to become unravelled
Derived Forms
unraveller, noun
unravelment, 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 unravel

c.1600, from un- (2) + ravel (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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