Definition of ravel in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈrav(ə)l/

verb (ravels, ravelling, ravelled; US ravels, raveling, raveled)

1 [with object] (ravel something out) Untangle something: Davy had finished ravelling out his herring net
More example sentences
  • Individual sheets are raveled out in advance by blowing air against the side of a stack of sheets to remove attractions between sheets.
2 [no object] Unravel; fray: (as adjective ravelled) a shirt with a ravelled collar
More example sentences
  • Pulses raced and temperatures soared as the game ravelled furiously before the heated supporters.
  • It would be nice if you could just ravel out into time.
  • If the fabric ravels easily after cutting, serge-finish the edges before constructing the garment.
3 [with object] Confuse or complicate (a question or situation): I’d prefer you to keep your nose out of my business and not ravel things further
More example sentences
  • The plot is sufficiently ravelled for the entry to Valhalla to have only ambiguous significance.


A tangle, cluster, or knot: a ravel of knitting
More example sentences
  • We discovered that whoever installed the pipes sealed the joints with duct tape because little silver ravels are visible at each section.
  • What results is a controlled ravel (because the cuts are made on the bias) and a fluffy chenille effect.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'entangle, confuse'): probably from Dutch ravelen 'fray out, tangle'.

  • unravel from early 17th century:

    The Dutch were the first to ravel, which originally meant both ‘to entangle’ and ‘to disentangle’. In the early 17th century unravel added to the existing complexity. You might think that ravel would then have settled down as its opposite, ‘to entangle’, but that is not what happened, and ravel and unravel usually have the same meaning.

Words that rhyme with ravel

Cavell, cavil, gavel, gravel, travel

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ravel

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