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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English unsen, unseyn, unseien, from Old English unġesewen, from Proto-Germanic *unsewanaz, equivalent to un- +‎ seen. Cognate with Dutch ongezien (unseen), German Low German unsehn (unseen), German ungesehen (unseen).


unseen (not comparable)

  1. Not seen or discovered; invisible.
    • 1890, Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Chapter 9:
      You became to me the visible incarnation of that unseen ideal whose memory haunts us artists like an exquisite dream.
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture 3:
      Were one asked to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.
    • 2013 June 14, Jonathan Freedland, “Obama's once hip brand is now tainted”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 1, page 18:
      Where we once sent love letters in a sealed envelope, or stuck photographs of our children in a family album, now such private material is despatched to servers and clouds operated by people we don't know and will never meet. Perhaps we assume that our name, address and search preferences will be viewed by some unseen pair of corporate eyes, probably not human, and don't mind that much.
  2. Unskilled; inexperienced.
  3. Not hitherto noticed; unobserved.
    • ca. 1594', William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, Act I, sc. 2:
      I to the world am like a drop of water
      That in the ocean seeks another drop,
      Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
      Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

un- +‎ seen



  1. past participle of unsee
    What has been seen cannot be unseen.


unseen (plural unseens)

  1. An examination involving material not previously seen or studied.
    I have French and Latin unseens this summer.