Definition of unfair in US English:



  • 1Not based on or behaving according to the principles of equality and justice.

    ‘at times like these the legal system appears inhumane and unfair’
    • ‘It has opaque adoption procedures and risks unfair and unequal enforcement.’
    • ‘The judge added it was premature and unfair to reach conclusions based on the State's summary of its case.’
    • ‘The capitalist system may be blamed for the unfair distribution of national and social welfare.’
    • ‘The world in general, and the book trade in particular, is unfair, unjust, and patently absurd in its workings.’
    • ‘In pieces of this nature, people constantly use biased, unfair information about Keane that is half true to have a go at him.’
    • ‘It's going to seem a bit unfair banning Americans for behaving like Americans if everyone else is doing so.’
    • ‘They are there to protect those accused from receiving an unfair trial because of prejudicial press reports.’
    • ‘Health inequities, formally defined, are avoidable inequalities that are unfair and unjust.’
    • ‘You know what makes it all desperately unfair, so unjust, is that these people aren't even getting value for money.’
    • ‘As a matter of personal philosophy, he thinks that judging a site based on links is unfair.’
    • ‘We might agree that, if we could distribute talents, it would be unjust or unfair to distribute them unequally.’
    • ‘These distance criteria are the toughest in Australia and this inequity is simply unfair.’
    • ‘Even where there is no direct prejudice, there may be unfair preferences which should not count.’
    • ‘They would not agree to an unfair or unbalanced deal any more than we would.’
    • ‘An unequal society is an unfair society, regardless of what factors have led to the inequalities.’
    • ‘Opposition politicians said it would involve deeply unfair rationing according to lifestyle.’
    • ‘Thus the comparison was unfair - not in accordance with honest trade practices.’
    • ‘My dismissal was completely unfair and unjustifiable and it has had an adverse impact not just on myself but on my whole family.’
    • ‘If they personally feel that a decision is unjust and unfair, they must stand up for themselves.’
    • ‘In my opinion what Mr Hughes got convicted for was totally unfair and justice was not served on him properly.’
    1. 1.1 Unkind, inconsiderate, or unreasonable.
      ‘you're unfair to criticize like that when she's never done you any harm’
      • ‘There was a time when we had employers who were unfair and unreasonable, but I think time has moved on.’
      • ‘In November she complained about the very rigid, harsh, unfair and unreasonable marking of some of the papers.’
      • ‘I regard that as an inconsistent and unfair position for him to have adopted.’
      • ‘The resulting decisions are inevitably sometimes unfair and inconsistent.’
      • ‘The repayment of arrears need not be an unreasonable or unfair burden on the respondent.’
      inconsiderate, thoughtless, insensitive, selfish, mean, unkind, unreasonable, uncharitable, unfeeling, callous
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Not following the rules of a game or sport.
      • ‘The axiom is that golf was never meant to be a fair game, so then the natural response is when does it become an unfair game?’
      • ‘They began to shout of the rules and of unfair play, and Abigail sighed with relief.’
      • ‘Thus the chances of his winning the game is sabotaged by unfair meddling.’


Old English unfæger ‘not beautiful’ (see un-, fair).