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The word unpack has been in use since the fifteenth century, but it has recently taken on a new meaning. We will examine the definition of the word unpack, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The first definition of the word unpack is to remove things from a box, suitcase or other container. It is the antonym of pack. Antonyms are two words that have opposing meanings. Interestingly, unpack has also come to mean to analyze something, to take apart an idea and examine each piece in detail. Unpacking involves a sort of deconstruction. This definition of unpack first came into use in the late 1980s, most probably describing the literary and theater arts. The term gained acceptance in academic and psychological circles, and is considered a buzzword. Be careful using the word unpack in this manner, as many find it pretentious or gimmicky. Related words are unpacks, unpacked, unpacking.


On Oct. 20, Thomson said she was unaware she had the firearms Van Gilder sought until she recently unpacked boxes of items that had been awarded to her in the settlement and that had been packed by Van Gilder. (The Austin American Statesman)

Kudos to the wordsmiths for including “unpack” on their List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. (The Baraboo News Republic)

A City Year event being held today to commemorate the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is drawing criticism from some city officials over the subject matter of several workshops — including topics such as “unpacking whiteness” and “microaggression awareness.” (The New Hampshire Union Leader)