English edit

Etymology edit

From Middle English *unknowen, *uniknowen, uniknowe, from Old English unġecnāwen (unknown), equivalent to un- +‎ known.

Pronunciation edit

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ʌnˈnəʊn/
  • (US) enPR: ŭn-nōnʹ, IPA(key): /ʌnˈnoʊn/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -əʊn

Adjective edit

unknown (comparative more unknown, superlative most unknown)

  1. (sometimes postpositive) Not known; unidentified; not well known.
    Synonyms: anonymous, unfamiliar, uncharted, undiscovered, unexplored, unidentified, unnamed, unrecognized, unrevealed, unascertained, obscure, unsung
    Antonyms: well-known, famous, known
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter IV, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC, page 58:
      The Celebrity, by arts unknown, induced Mrs. Judge Short and two other ladies to call at Mohair on a certain afternoon when Mr. Cooke was trying a trotter on the track. The three returned wondering and charmed with Mrs. Cooke; they were sure she had had no hand in the furnishing of that atrocious house.
    • 2022 January 12, Chris Hegg, “The secret railway in the woods”, in RAIL, number 948, page 34:
      I suspect that this large and complex military railway system, shrouded in official secrecy for most of its operational life, remains unknown to many people.

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Noun edit

unknown (plural unknowns)

  1. (algebra) A variable (usually x, y or z) whose value is to be found.
  2. Any thing, place, or situation about which nothing is known; an unknown fact or piece of information.
    • 1957, Ethel Erford Hewitt, Into the Unknown: An Historical Novel, page 351:
      Had God walked close beside her into the unknown?
    • 2003 [2002], Donald Rumsfeld, edited by Hart Seely, Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld:
      As we know, There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know There are known unknowns. That is to say We know there are some things We do not know.
    • 2020 April 9, Ian Boyd, “We practised for a pandemic, but didn’t brace”, in Nature, volume 580, number 7802, page 9:
      The other priority is getting people to respond well to interventions, especially changes to routine. This is one of the biggest unknowns in these scenarios, and yet compliance can be the most crucial factor in determining whether an intervention works.
  3. A person of no identity; a nonentity

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Verb edit


  1. past participle of unknow