Ravel is a contronym, a word that has two meanings that are the opposite of each other. Confusingly, ravel can mean both "tangle" and "untangle." It's perfectly understandable to tangle up the meanings of ravel!

If you work to ravel yarn into a neat ball, your cat may come along and try to ravel it again. How can a word mean both one thing and its opposite? In the case of ravel, the answer is sewing: As threads come unwoven from a cloth, they become tangled on each other. Since untangling is never far from tangling, ravel covers both meanings.

Definitions of ravel
  1. verb
    synonyms: ravel out, unravel
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    knot, tangle
    tangle or complicate
    type of:
    disentangle, straighten out, unsnarl
    extricate from entanglement
  2. verb
    tangle or complicate
    “a ravelled story”
    synonyms: knot, tangle
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    unknot, unpick, unravel, unscramble, untangle
    become or cause to become undone by separating the fibers or threads of
    ravel out, unravel
    show more antonyms...
    type of:
    enlace, entwine, interlace, intertwine, lace, twine
    spin,wind, or twist together
  3. noun
    a row of unravelled stitches
    synonyms: ladder, run
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    type of:
    damage, harm, impairment
    the occurrence of a change for the worse
Word Family
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