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[uhn-ree-duh-buh l] /ʌnˈri də bəl/
not readable; undecipherable; scribbled:
His scrawl was almost unreadable.
not interesting to read; dull; tedious; an unreadable treatise.
extraordinarily difficult to read or comprehend; obscure; incomprehensible:
an unreadable dream; an unreadable expression.
Origin of unreadable
1795-1805; un-1 + readable
Related forms
unreadability, unreadableness, noun
unreadably, adverb
Can be confused
illegible, illiterate, unreadable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for unreadable
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She looked up at him with eyes that were unreadable to his simple understanding.

  • His works are the most famous and the most unreadable in all Germany.

    Vivian Grey Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli
  • The girls played a couple rounds of eye-hockey, unreadable behind their lenses, and Perry shrugged apologetically at Lester.

    Makers Cory Doctorow
  • Since we met, I've written the first draft of a novel, which is unreadable, and a play.

    The Education of Eric Lane Stephen McKenna
  • There was the beginning of a stiff smile, unreadable, as his eyes fixed on Christopher Wright.

    West Of The Sun Edgar Pangborn
  • Her face was unreadable; her mental block was at its fullest force.

    The Galaxy Primes Edward Elmer Smith
  • Occasionally his eyes roved to the portrait of his wife, and a melancholy, unreadable smile broke the severe line of his lips.

    The Grey Cloak Harold MacGrath
British Dictionary definitions for unreadable


illegible; undecipherable
difficult or tedious to read
Derived Forms
unreadability, unreadableness, noun
unreadably, adverb
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 unreadable

c.1810, of written material, "dull, distasteful," from un- (1) "not" + readable. Meaning "illegible" is from 1830.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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