I’ve often used the word ‘unravel’ but until the other day I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘ravel’; it does exist although it is obsolete, and means:

transitive verb:

  • to  entangle, confuse

    intransitive verb

  • obsolete :  to become entangled or confused

It can also mean to confuse someone or perplex them and it can also be when a road surface breaks up – we have plenty of ravelled roads round here, I can tell you!

One thing I leaned is that in fact ravel and unravel can mean the same thing:

Ravel is an interesting verb, in that it can mean both “tangle” and “untangle.” So if you work to ravel yarn into a neat ball, your cat may come along and try to ravel it again.


I guessed it may come from the French, but no, I was wrong, it comes from the Dutch, and in the original usage the verb was used to mean to ravel and to unravel; there is a reason for this – the origin was from weaving, where something which ravelled (became unwoven, or as we might say today, unravelled) then became ravelled (tangled up)… Perhaps it’s a Dutch joke… I must ask my dear Dutch friend!



  1. richard.kefford

    Interesting that Ravel is used in this poem “presence of Eternity. by Eunice Tjiens:

    But I shall go down from this airy space, this swift white peace, this stinging exultation;

    And time will close about me, and my soul stir to the rhythm of the daily round.

    Yet, having known, life will not press so close, and always I shall feel time ravel thin about me;

    For once I stood In the white windy presence of eternity.

    From: O sacred mountain – Eunice Tjiens.

    I guess she means ravel in the sense of ‘wind’ not ‘unwind’. This is the only use of the word I have come across. She was American, from Chicago!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s