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From Middle English unfolden, from Old English unfealdan (to unfold), equivalent to un- +‎ fold.



unfold (third-person singular simple present unfolds, present participle unfolding, simple past and past participle unfolded)

  1. (transitive) To undo a folding.
    to unfold a map; to unfold a tablecloth; She unpacks the new dress and unfolds it carefully.
    • [1633], George Herbert, edited by [Nicholas Ferrar], The Temple: Sacred Poems, and Private Ejaculations, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel; and are to be sold by Francis Green, [], →OCLC; reprinted London: Elliot Stock, [], 1885, →OCLC:
      Unfold thy forehead gathered into frowns.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 19, in The China Governess: A Mystery, London: Chatto & Windus, →OCLC:
      Meanwhile Nanny Broome was recovering from her initial panic and seemed anxious to make up for any kudos she might have lost, by exerting her personality to the utmost. She took the policeman's helmet and placed it on a chair, and unfolded his tunic to shake it and fold it up again for him.
  2. (intransitive) To become unfolded.
    The curtains unfolded to reveal the stage.
  3. (intransitive) To turn out; to happen; to develop.
    Events unfolded in an unexpected way.
    • 2012 November 8, Scott Tobias, “Memento’s puzzle structure hides big twists and bigger profundities”, in The AV Club[1]:
      Memento unfolds over 22 scenes—or, more accurately, 22 strands of time, the main strand (in color) moving backward in increments, and another strand (in black and white) going forward, though the two overlap profoundly.
  4. (transitive) To lay open to view or contemplation; to bring out in all the details, or by successive development; to reveal.
    to unfold one's designs;  to unfold the principles of a science
  5. (transitive) To release from a fold or pen.
    to unfold sheep




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unfold (plural unfolds)

  1. (computing, programming) In functional programming, a kind of higher-order function that is the opposite of a fold.