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From Dutch ravelen (to tangle, fray out, unweave), from Dutch rafel (frayed thread).



ravel (plural ravels)

  1. A snarl; a complication.
    • 1927, DH Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico[1], HTML edition, Project Gutenberg Australia, published 2009:
      The savannah valley is shadeless, spotted only with the thorny ravel of mesquite bushes.
  2. A ravelled thread.


ravel (third-person singular simple present ravels, present participle ravelling or (US) raveling, simple past and past participle ravelled or (US) raveled)

  1. To tangle; entangle; entwine confusedly, become snarled; thus to involve; perplex; confuse.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Waller
      What glory's due to him that could divide / Such ravelled interests?
    • (Can we date this quote?) Jeremy Taylor
      The faith of very many men seems a duty so weak and indifferent, is so often untwisted by violence, or ravelled and entangled in weak discourses!
    • 1871, Popular Science News[2], volume 5-7, Digitized edition, published 2011, page 61:
      … and in them are minute glands, which resemble ravelled tubes …
    • 2011 September 10, Martha T. Moore, “After 9/11, dinner gang raises funds to honor those lost”, in USA Today[3], retrieved 2012-08-24:
      But the real work of the First Thursday Foundation is remembering, and its biggest gift is knitting back together lives raveled by loss.
  2. To undo the intricacies of; to disentangle or clarify.
  3. To pull apart (especially cloth or a seam); unravel.
  4. (computing, programming) In the APL language, to reshape (a variable) into a vector.
    • 1975, Tse-yun Feng, Parallel processing: proceedings of the Sagamore Computer Conference
      LOAD.S loads a sequence of scalars from the ravelled form of a matrix into successive AM elements.
    • 1980, Gijsbert van der Linden, APL 80: International Conference on APL, June 24-26, 1980
      Ravelling is necessary because the execute function in the IBM implementation only accepts charactervectors as argument.

Usage notesEdit

  • The spellings ravelling and ravelled are more common in the UK than in the US.



  • Century Dictionary, Vol. VI, Page 4976, ravel
  • Century Dictionary Supplement, Vol. XII, Page 1114, ravel
  • The New Century Dictionary 1952, Volume Two, page 1476, Ravel
  • Online Etymology, ravel
  • ravel at OneLook Dictionary Search




ravel n

  1. Talk.

Related termsEdit