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From Middle English unwinden, from Old English unwindan (to unwind; unwrap), from Proto-Germanic *andawindaną (to unwind); equivalent to un- +‎ wind (to coil). Cognate with Dutch ontwinden (to unwind).


  • IPA(key): /ʌnˈwaɪnd/
  • (file)
    Rhymes: -aɪnd


unwind (third-person singular simple present unwinds, present participle unwinding, simple past and past participle unwound)

  1. (transitive) To separate (something that is wound up)
    to unwind a ball of yarn
    Could you unwind about a foot of ribbon so I can finish the package?
    Synonyms: untwist, untwine
  2. (transitive, obsolete) To disentangle
    • 1836, Richard Hooker, The Works of Richard Hooker, volume 4, page 27:
      [] but being not so skilful as in every point to unwind themselves where the snares of glossing speech do lie to entangle them, []
  3. (intransitive, colloquial) To relax; to chill out; to rest and become relieved of stress
    After work, I like to unwind by smoking a pipe while reading the paper.
  4. (intransitive) To be or become unwound; to be capable of being unwound or untwisted.
  5. (transitive, finance) To close out a position, especially a complicated position.
  6. (transitive, finance) To undo something.
  7. (transitive, programming) To analyse (a call stack) so as to generate a stack trace etc.
    • 2006, Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Trends in Functional Programming, volume 5, page 62:
      If the expression is a throw, we unwind the stack seeking a handler expression.

Related terms[edit]


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unwind (plural unwinds)

  1. Any mechanism or operation that unwinds something.
    • 1989, Ruth E. Goldenberg; Lawrence J. Kenah, VMS Internals and Data Structures: Version 5 Update:
      The NEWPC argument specifies the address to which control should be returned after the unwind is complete. If it is omitted, its default is for control to return to the PC saved in the call frame next outermost to the unwound ones.
    • 1998, Tappi Journal, volume 81, page 207:
      A primary function of the unwind is to provide a guided web into the slitter rewinder for accuracy in locating the web for slitting or to realign the edge of the web in a straight rewinding operation.