Definition of unequal in US English:



  • 1Not equal in quantity, size, or value.

    ‘two rooms of unequal size’
    ‘unequal odds’
    • ‘Techniques for unequal sample sizes use modifications of critical values and standard errors.’
    • ‘Burke's Reflections may be divided (for the author did not provide any formal divisions) into two portions of unequal length.’
    • ‘In our analyses, we do not attempt to quantify amounts of observed overlap because of unequal sample sizes.’
    • ‘But the most depressing reality in this morbid calculus is the unequal value of lives.’
    • ‘Moreover, if Mr. Lister is worried about schools of unequal size being formed, why wasn't Harrington Sound Primary trimmed back from its current three streams to two?’
    • ‘The unequal sample sizes in the four respondent groups were noted.’
    • ‘The net present value, as a ranking criterion, can distort comparisons among competing projects of unequal investment size.’
    • ‘The volume provides a wealth of information but with interpretation of unequal value and without a clear conceptual framework.’
    • ‘The two wings of a given seed may be essentially equal in size, but more often are unequal.’
    • ‘As a result, a two-cell embryo with cells of unequal size was formed.’
    • ‘He picked through cards and dice and handkerchiefs until he found three ropes of unequal lengths.’
    • ‘This issue appears to be important only when there are very few subpopulations of unequal size, and it is addressed by the simulation study below.’
    • ‘The book is divided into eight sections of unequal size.’
    • ‘Cargoes were of unequal value, and the profit margin surely much higher for some than for others.’
    • ‘Regression analyses were preformed to determine whether basal area and density were affected by the unequal plot sizes.’
    • ‘One extension made in this article is to allow for unequal population size between the two habitats, a case treated in the past only for the limits of very large or very small migration.’
    • ‘The word ‘scalene’ is used to describe a triangle with sides of unequal lengths.’
    • ‘Often, the spines are grossly unequal in size, and some or all may bear petal-like flanges proximally or distally.’
    • ‘The x- and y-axes represent the entire yeast genome consisting of 16 chromosomes of unequal length.’
    • ‘The century of crisis divides into two periods of unequal length.’
    different, differing, dissimilar, unlike, unalike, unidentical, disparate, not uniform, unmatched, not matching
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Not fair, evenly balanced, or having equal advantage.
      ‘the ownership of capital is unequal in this country’
      • ‘I think the increasingly unequal distribution of the wage share itself is also contributing to the sour political mood.’
      • ‘Power is always an asymmetrical relationship based on different knowledge and its unequal distribution.’
      • ‘This only ends up securing unequal, repressive, and intolerant societies.’
      • ‘It can be difficult, even a bit threatening, to face the ways an unequal system gives us advantages that are denied to others.’
      • ‘Then I got riled about the unequal distribution of wealth, and the exploitation of the working class.’
      • ‘Land distribution is among the most unequal in Latin America.’
      • ‘But for all that Bush needed him, the relationship remained unequal.’
      • ‘That unequal distribution of income exacerbated an already widening gulf in income.’
      • ‘It was a social relationship characterized by an unequal distribution of power and resources.’
      • ‘I think that the problem is the unequal distribution in the economy.’
      • ‘The unequal distribution of power between managers and workers is the basic cause of the conflict between them.’
      • ‘We live in an increasingly interconnected world which is also increasingly unequal in its distribution of global wealth.’
      • ‘But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.’
      • ‘Politics is about the unequal distribution of power, the abuse of power and the struggles to resist and dissolve power.’
      • ‘Public health action takes place on a terrain of contested meanings and unequal power, where different knowledges struggle for control.’
      • ‘It is taxation by the back door, but it is an unequal and largely regressive tax.’
      • ‘What was the role of the media in creating those unequal conditions?’
      • ‘As a result, an unequal distribution of power long has been perpetuated in the nurse-physician relationship.’
      • ‘In the past decade, the already notoriously unequal distribution of wealth has become even more disproportionate.’
      • ‘How can the problem with unequal distribution of wealth be solved without developing countries destroying their natural resource basis?’
      unfair, unjust, random, disproportionate, inequitable, biased, prejudiced
      one-sided, uneven, unfair, unjust, inequitable, ill-matched, unbalanced, lopsided
      View synonyms
  • 2predicative Not having the ability or resources to meet a challenge.

    ‘she felt unequal to the task before her’
    • ‘When his government proved unequal to the challenges of post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation, the public demanded his replacement and Sonia had to relent.’
    • ‘Having proven themselves unequal to the task of assessing the need for the vaccine in the first place, they are now proving themselves unequal to the task of administering it.’
    • ‘His father having died years before, Buck is suddenly alone, and pathetically unequal to the task.’
    • ‘Where law enforcement agencies are unequal to a task, it is the community that should rise as a man to fill in the breach.’
    • ‘You may feel unequal to the task of being a mother.’
    • ‘The reality may be that any combination of politicians will be unequal to the task of managing progress in a country which relies so heavily on litigation as a means of conflict resolution.’
    • ‘The overanxious Punna was unequal to the task, his lack of high-level experience proving to be a major handicap.’
    • ‘His considerable discussions of sexuality are conspicuously free from prudery, so frank that he feared being read by people whose minds were unequal to the seriousness of the subject.’
    • ‘For literary theoreticians, it is axiomatic that language is unequal to the task of encompassing reality.’
    • ‘But the baptismal water proved unequal to the task of washing away Benjamin Disraeli's innate orientalism of deportment.’
    • ‘Two of the mercenaries have taken it upon themselves to carry him, his diminutive legs being unequal to the task of running through marketplaces.’
    • ‘To attack this amorphous target the Kriegsmarine applied all its resources over the winter of 1940-1, but they were unequal to the task.’
    • ‘And if you find him unequal to the task, change him and bring somebody else.’
    • ‘There was little in the way of theory or methodology to support it - merely a sense that by themselves the individual disciplines were unequal to the task of analyzing a culture in search of itself.’
    • ‘Many women corporators find themselves unequal to the task.’
    • ‘It was obvious to everyone in Washington that the existing navy was unequal to the task of effective blockade.’
    • ‘When the time comes for classical elements like story and character to take over, they are unequal to the task.’
    • ‘Bush is determined to keep the dynamism vibrant and to encourage and empower the poor to take part in it, rather than to suggest that they are unequal to the task.’
    • ‘In some countries, especially those facing massive development challenges, even the military would be unequal to imposing legal order on a feral city.’
    • ‘Yet try as they might, their weary mounts were unequal to their demands.’
    inadequate for, insufficient for, incapable of, unqualified for, unsuited to, unfitted for, incompetent at, not up to, found wanting in
    View synonyms


  • A person or thing considered to be different from another in status or level.

    • ‘My right palm ached severely more because it was a hand shake between two unequals.’
    • ‘Europeans think that Americans are on their way to betraying some of the elementary tenets of the Enlightenment, establishing a new principle in which they are ‘first among unequals.’’
    • ‘Plato said that you can never have agreements between unequals, and consequently, without economic convergence, the EU will never strike a fair balance with the East.’
    • ‘One could view this as an undesirable violation of the principle of horizontal equity, in that it gives equal treatment (the same credit amount) to unequals (families with different numbers of children).’
    • ‘Our participation involves us in a cooperative mutuality of unequals as we accept God's saving offer of divine life.’
    • ‘Also, because of the emphasis placed on harmony between unequals in prestige, rank, and power, a negative evaluation may undermine harmonious relations.’
    • ‘For Aristotle, equality meant equal treatment for equals and unequal treatment for unequals with respect to given qualities, a conception of fairness that virtually requires a very unequal society.’
    • ‘It is a question of the relevance of the differential in the context where one has to treat unequals unequally.’
    • ‘Nothing demotivates people like the equal treatment of unequals.’
    • ‘And as an ancient sage once said, ‘Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.’’
    • ‘Gant's story allowed for an interesting development in the relationship between sweet Carter and prickly Benton, a relationship that evolved over the years into a powerful bond between unequals.’
    • ‘Before one can think of equality between unequals, the dwarf must be raised to the height of the giant.’
    • ‘The term ‘prestation’ indicates the inherent obligation and potential threat in gift exchange between unequals.’
    • ‘This relationship, and the obligations and virtues it involves, lacks three central features of relations between moral agents as understood by Kantians and contractarians - it is intimate, it is unchosen and it is between unequals.’
    • ‘Paternalism presumes sentimental relations will create justice between unequals.’
    • ‘The two routes to injustice are to treat equals unequally and unequals equally, to paraphrase Aristotle.’
    • ‘The reunification of the two nations into one country in 1990 was a seminal event in Ruhl's life, but he explains that the marriage of two unequals has been rocky.’
    • ‘Certainly, relationships between unequals should not serve as the model for relationships between equals or vice versa.’
    • ‘This fear carries a tragic weight: it diminishes the possibility of trust among unequals; it inhibits confidence in or surrender to the judgment of others.’
    • ‘The researchers' explanation is that freer expression of conflict occurs more among peers than among unequals.’