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


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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. (transitive) 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. (transitive, figuratively) To undo the intricacies of; to disentangle or clarify.
  3. (transitive) To pull apart (especially cloth or a seam); unravel.
  4. (intransitive) To become entangled.
  5. (intransitive) To become untwisted or unwoven.
  6. (computing, programming) In the APL programming 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