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From Middle English unlykely, unlikly, unlykly, unlicli, equivalent to un- +‎ likely.


  • IPA(key): /ʌnˈlaɪkli/
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unlikely (comparative unlikelier or more unlikely, superlative unlikeliest or most unlikely)

  1. Not likely; improbable; not to be reasonably expected.
    It's very unlikely that you'll be able to walk perfectly after being in a cast for six months.
    In the highly unlikely event of landing in water, lifejackets are stored under the seat.
    • 1895 May 7, H[erbert] G[eorge] Wells, chapter X, in The Time Machine: An Invention, New York, N.Y.: Henry Holt and Company, OCLC 4701980:
      Now, I still think that for this box of matches to have escaped the wear of time for immemorial years was a strange, and for me, a most fortunate thing. Yet oddly enough I found here a far more unlikely substance, and that was camphor.
    • 1964 July, “Motive Power Miscellany: Western Region”, in Modern Railways, page 70:
      The Saturday evening Cardiff-West Wales mail train is still steam-worked, but a most unlikely locomotive used on May 23 was Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 No. 45250 (5A); it returned on May 25 with a train of steel billets.
  2. Not holding out a prospect of success; likely to fail; unpromising.
    unlikely means



unlikely (comparative more unlikely, superlative most unlikely)

  1. In an improbable manner.



unlikely (plural unlikelies)

  1. Something or somebody considered unlikely.
    • 1980, Robert K. Lindsay, Applications of artificial intelligence for organic chemistry
      The molecular ion candidates are divided by the testing phase into three categories: rejects, unlikelies, and probables. Differences between each candidate and the prominent peaks in the spectrum are computed.
    • 1996, Laurie R. King, To Play the Fool
      "Here is my every possible phone number, plus a few unlikelies. And I've also put down the numbers of Karin and Wade, in case you've lost them. Karin can come anytime; Wade, up until six in the morning."
    • 2001, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Marci Shimoff, Chicken soup for the mother's soul 2 (page 166)
      Then the most unlikely of unlikelies happened. We got another phone call. Another woman wanted to give us a baby—a boy, born just that morning. We walked into a hospital, and he was placed into my arms.