Meaning of “unknown” in the English Dictionary

"unknown" in British English

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uk /ʌnˈnəʊn/ us /ʌnˈnoʊn/

B1 not known or familiar:

The exact number of people carrying the virus is unknown.
As recently as six months ago her name was almost unknown in this country.
Unknown to me, she'd organized a party for my birthday.

More examples

  • An unknown terrorist group has claimed responsibility for this morning's bomb attack.
  • A generation ago, home computers were virtually unknown.
  • The article is of unknown authorship .
  • The director took a calculated risk in giving the film's main role to an unknown actor.
  • The very concept of free speech is unknown to them.


uk /ʌnˈnəʊn/ us /ʌnˈnoʊn/

C1 [ S ] what is not familiar or known:

Racism is in some ways just a fear of the unknown.

[ C ] a person, especially a performer or sports player, who is not famous:

For her latest film she deliberately chose a cast of unknowns.

[ C ] mainly US something that cannot be guessed at or calculated because so little is known about it:

It's the big unknowns that make insurance companies uneasy.

(Definition of “unknown” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"unknown" in American English

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us /ʌnˈnoʊn/

not known, or not known to many people:

His whereabouts are still unknown.

unknownnoun [ C ]

us /ʌnˈnoʊn/

a person who is not known to many people:

A year ago she was a virtual unknown on the figure-skating scene.

(Definition of “unknown” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)