un- +‎ string



unstring (third-person singular simple present unstrings, present participle unstringing, simple past and past participle unstrung)

  1. (transitive) To remove the string or strings from.
    • 2001, Graham Greene, Twenty-one Stories, →ISBN, page 30:
      When he looked at her neck he was reminded of how difficult it was to unstring a turkey.
    • 2009, Stim Wilcox, The Art of Making Selfbows, →ISBN:
      When you unstring the bow and it snaps right back to its unstrung profile, you probably have a nice piece of wood that's properly dry.
    • 2012, Rich Jackson, Guiding Daniel, →ISBN, page 195:
      I learned that music is expectancy and must be formed to the purpose for which it is played. People listen to it, pedagogues do not, and if they can't smile or hum or tap a foot to it, then, brother, you'd better unstring the Balalaika.
    Unstring the bows before storing them.
  2. (transitive) To shake the nerves of; to cause anxiety or panic in.
    • 1885, Robert Louis Stevenson, Olalla
      The sight of his scared face, his starts and pallors and sudden harkenings, unstrung me []
    • 1915, Clifton Johnson, Battleground Adventures
      A fire is the only thing that unstrings me entirely, I feel so helpless to combat it. I'm afraid of snakes, but I can kill them.
    • 2008, Charles H. Sylvester, Journeys Through Bookland, →ISBN, page 453:
      It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at a shadow.
    • 2013, Ravi Venkatesan, Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere, →ISBN, page 56:
      They look at the same events that unstring those less capable ... and see something useful.
  3. To defuse or relax.
    • 1791, Andrew Hamilton, An Enquiry Into the Principles of Taxation:
      In the mean time, the same, or a similar end, may be attained, in the 2d PLACE, By splitting a duty on a commodity, so as to unstring the stimulus to smuggle, while we preserve the same, or perhaps require a greater amount, from the same subject than we had before.
    • 2002, Paul W. Ludwig, Eros and Polis: Desire and Community in Greek Political Theory, →ISBN, page 254:
      Society can unstring the tension of sublimation only by lifting the barrier completely, that is, by abandoning the idea that illicit eros must not be gratified; society does not unstring the tension by silently countenancing individual gratifications.
    • 2010, Julia Spencer-Fleming, A Fountain Filled With Blood, →ISBN:
      She took a deep, slow breath in an effort to settle her heart and unstring her muscles.
  4. To remove from a string; to release something that has been strung up or strung together.
    • 1988, Eileen Christelow, The Robbery at the Diamond Dog Diner, →ISBN:
      "Poke a hole in the tops and bottoms of these eggs, blow out the yolks and whites, unstring the diamonds and stick them through the holes..."
    • 2004, Mandy Hager, Help, My Brain Hurts!:
      Look at them for 10 seconds, and then unstring them and try to put the beads back in their right order.
    • 2008, Alan Thompson, Claude Goodchild, Keeping Poultry and Rabbits on Scraps, →ISBN:
      After pelting unstring the carcase.
    • 2009, Sallie Ann Robinson, Cooking the Gullah Way, Morning, Noon, and Night, →ISBN, page 137:
      When it came time to cook the smelly corned fish, Momma would unstring the ones she wanted and boil them several times in hot water to draw off the heavy laver of salt and tenderize the fish.
  5. To untie.
    • 1773, John Dryden, Original poems by John Dryden, Esq - Volume 5, page 69:
      Invaded thus, for want of better bands, His garland they unstring, and bind his hands
    • 1840, John N. Smith, Ramanzo: The Conscience Stricken Brigand.:
      He is now e'en trying to unstring the tie of virtue, in yon poor cottager's daughter!
    • 2004, Elizabeth James, Across the Bridge, →ISBN, page 142:
      “So, James, should we unstring it first for ease of handling?” The ties were simple, as one might use without bothering about the intricacies of binding, merely to make sure that the pages stayed together and in the correct order.
    • 2014, Ralph Cotton, Shadow River, →ISBN, page 280:
      It was time to lead these horses out somewhere off the desert and unstring them.
  6. (transitive, computing, programming, COBOL) To split (a text string) into smaller strings by separating on a delimiter.
    • 1980, Norman R. Lyons, Structured Cobol for Data Processing
      It is also possible to save the delimiters (this might prove useful if the delimiters were also some sort of text identifier) and to count the length of the data items we are unstringing.


  • (computing: split a text string): explode