Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To extricate from entanglement or involvement; free. synonym: extricate.
  • intransitive verb To clear up or resolve (a plot, for example); unravel.
  • intransitive verb To become free of entanglement.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To free from entanglement; extricate from a state of involvement, disorder, or confusion: as, to disentangle a skein of thread, a mass of cordage, a set of accounts, or the affairs of a bankrupt firm.
  • To loose from that in or by which anything is entangled; extricate from whatever involves, perplexes, embarrasses, or confuses; disengage: as, to disentangle an object from a mass of twisted cord; to disentangle one's self from business, from political affairs, or from the cares and temptations of life.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To free from entanglement; to release from a condition of being intricately and confusedly involved or interlaced; to reduce to orderly arrangement; to straighten out.
  • transitive verb To extricate from complication and perplexity; disengage from embarrassing connection or intermixture; to disembroil; to set free; to separate.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To free something from entanglement; to extricate or unknot
  • verb transitive To unravel a mystery etc
  • verb intransitive To become free or untangled

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb smoothen and neaten with or as with a comb
  • verb free from involvement or entanglement
  • verb extricate from entanglement
  • verb release from entanglement of difficulty
  • verb separate the tangles of

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

dis- +‎ entangle

Examples

  • Kennedy-Carter is arguably a better example, but even that is very hard to disentangle from the Iran hostage situation.

    Matthew Yglesias » 2012 Primary Talk is Silly

  • In fact, the mechanism by which Martin introduces the De Lillo comparison — the Guardian review quote — is a real misjudgement in this respect, I’d say, planting the idea firmly in the reader’s head of strange style being “hard to disentangle from the copy-editing errors”.

    Critique From HereNow

  • Now is a good time for journalists to reassess their coverage of climate change, weed out any bias from their reporting strategies, do what they can to disentangle politics from science, and be more aggressive about covering what many scientists, business figures, policymakers, and activists think is the most important climate story of this still-new millennium.

    UK Met office pushes reset button on CRU data. - Moe_Lane’s blog - RedState

  • If you fear he will hurt himself -- or you -- then enlist the help of a psychotherapist to disentangle yourself as safely as possible.

    Carolyn Hax: Boyfriend reacts to breakup with threats

  • So when it comes to assessing the reasons for the teams' turnaround in fortunes, it's hard to disentangle the importance of conditions from England's inability to grasp the rhythms of the 50-over game.

    Both India, England Struggle on Foreign Soil

  • As scholar Valerie Bunce noted in the context of postcommunist Eastern Europe, liberalization helps to "disentangle political power from economic resources and thereby constrain the state, empower society and create competitive political and economic hierarchies."

    Searching for Hayek in Cairo

  • We experience the good and the bad tangled together, and because we are participants in this entanglement, not cool observers, it's all but impossible to disentangle good from bad.

    Deepak Chopra: Beyond Belief: Sam Harris Imagines a "Moral Landscape"

  • The notion that the heavy hands of government might disentangle the delicate stands of this Gordian knot seems very far-fetched.

    David Katz, M.D.: Abortion, on Middle Ground

  • The share sale, however, "will go a long way toward helping AIG disentangle" from government ownership, he adds.

    Luck, Price Rescue Stock of an AIG Prized Asset

  • The notion that the heavy hands of government might disentangle the delicate stands of this Gordian knot seems very far-fetched.

    David Katz, M.D.: Abortion, on Middle Ground

Comments

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  • "I do not wish to be insulting, but I firmly believe that if you took an average tow-line, and stretched it out straight across the middle of a field, and then turned your back on it for thirty seconds, that, when you looked round again, you would find that it had got itself altogether in a heap in the middle of the field, and had twisted itself up, and tied itself into knots, and lost its two ends, and become all loops; and it would take you a good half-hour, sitting down there on the grass and swearing all the while, to disentangle it again."

    - Jerome K. Jerome, 'Three Men in a Boat'.

    August 28, 2009