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the word ‘unravel’ but until the other day I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘ravel’; it does exist although it is obsolete, and means: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