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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Since she could not unravel the tangle, she must take care not to re-enter it.

    A Room With A View E. M. Forster
  • "But have the goodness to unravel to us this grand mystery," demanded the count.

    Fairy Fingers Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie
  • They spare no pains to unravel plots; I hope they will find one some day as a reward for their efforts.

    Through the Land of the Serb Mary Edith Durham
  • How might she unravel this tangled skein and float to weal upon this sea of death?

    Eric Brighteyes H. Rider Haggard
  • He was not fitted to unravel difficulties in his episcopate, and scarcely suited to these times.

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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