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From Middle English unloken, unlouken, onlouken, from Old English onlūcan (to unlock), equivalent to un- +‎ lock. Cognate with Dutch ontluiken (to unlock).


  • IPA(key): /ʌnˈlɒk/, /ʌnˈlɔk/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɒk


unlock (third-person singular simple present unlocks, present participle unlocking, simple past and past participle unlocked)

  1. (transitive) To undo or open a lock or something locked by, for example, turning a key, or selecting a combination.
    I unlocked the door and walked in.
  2. (transitive) To obtain access to something.
    I unlocked the dictionary article so I could edit it.
    This computer game is shareware, but you can pay for a code to unlock the full version.
    • 2013 July 20, “Welcome to the plastisphere”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8845:
      Plastics are energy-rich substances, which is why many of them burn so readily. Any organism that could unlock and use that energy would do well in the Anthropocene. Terrestrial bacteria and fungi which can manage this trick are already familiar to experts in the field.
    • 2019 October, “Funding for 20tph East London line service”, in Modern Railways, page 18:
      The combination of the new station and road improvements is expected to unlock up to 14,000 new homes, with the council saying no more than 2,500 homes can be built at Beaulieu and north east Chelmsford without the station.
  3. (transitive, mobile telephony) To configure (a mobile phone) so that it is not bound to any particular carrier.
  4. (transitive) To disclose or reveal previously unknown knowledge or potential.
    The discovery of a clue unlocked the mystery.
    • 2022 April 14, Rupert Neate, quoting Elon Musk, “Elon Musk offers to buy Twitter for more than $40bn”, in The Guardian[1]:
      Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.
  5. (intransitive) To be or become unfastened or unrestrained.
  6. (figuratively) This term needs a definition. Please help out and add a definition, then remove the text {{rfdef}}.
    • 2020 May 20, Richard Clinnick, “Electrification key to decarbonisation”, in Rail, page 16:
      He also warned of the supply chain issues, stating: "Don't pretend you're going to unlock half a dozen [electrification] schemes simultaneously because you'll probably flood the supply chain, we don't have the capacity."



unlock (plural unlocks)

  1. The act of unlocking something.
    • 1998, Steven Herberts, The Correctional Officer Inside Prisons (page 38)
      Unlike modern, automated prisons, each cell here was locked and unlocked manually with a large skeleton key. The first duty was to get a proper head count of each inmate, insuring each was alive. Once done, an unlock was conducted.
    • 2011, Ganesh Gopalakrishnan, Shaz Qadeer, Computer Aided Verification: 23rd International Conference
      The instructions between a lock and an unlock form a critical section.