Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To remove the contents of (a suitcase, for example).
  • transitive v. To remove from a container, from packaging, or from packing.
  • transitive v. To remove a pack from (a pack animal).
  • intransitive v. To unpack objects from a container.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To remove from a package or container, particularly with respect to items that had previously been arranged closely and securely in a pack.
  • v. To empty containers that had been packed.
  • v. To analyze a concept or a text.
  • v. To undergo separation of its features into distinct segments.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To separate and remove, as things packed; to open and remove the contents of.
  • transitive v. To relieve of a pack or burden.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To open, as things packed: as, to unpack goods.
  • To relieve of a pack or burden; unload; disburden.

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

  • v. remove from its packing

Etymologies

un- +‎ pack (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The default stub calls unpack (), you see, and PHP 6 needs to be told that the second argument to unpack () is a binary string and not a Unicode string.

    AvaxHome RSS:

  • Dismantling Brown's district would have the side effect, of course, of allowing Democrats to "unpack" the district, taking its many Democratic voters and spreading them around nearby districts, creating three or four Democratic-leaning districts where there is currently just one solidly Democratic district.

    'Fairness' in Florida and how it could help Democrats

  • "In order to give Democrats their fair share of seats, you'd have to 'unpack' urban Democratic neighborhoods by drawing long, narrow districts that start in the urban core and extend into the outer suburbs and rural periphery," says Dr. Chen, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

    Redistricting Hype Blurs Reality

  • When the French arrive at a new location, one of the first things they "unpack" are the "boules": "de-ball-er".

    French Word-A-Day:

  • Some said set up a Resolution Trust Corporation to "unpack" the baskets piece by piece and put the mortgages back together like a giant puzzle.

    Randi Rhodes: Banks Rob People Twice

  • To "unpack" means to put the statement or term or whatever is being unpacked in a more tangible context - often in the form of real life examples.

    Philocrites: Andrew Sullivan on Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright.

  • Dudley, I have no idea how the term "unpack" came to mean "to elaborate," but that's what I think most people mean when they says that they're "unpacking" a statement.

    Philocrites: Andrew Sullivan on Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright.

  • And that possibility just presents a whole other box to "unpack," doesn't it?

    Race as disability

  • What about the colloquial, fairly recent use of "unpack" to mean "explain the meaning of something obscure or complicated after the fact"?

    languagehat.com: STILL UNPACKED.

  • He encouraged them to "unpack" the scenarios contained in the book and apply them to continental objectives, as laid out by the

    ANC Daily News Briefing

Comments

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  • This is a Tavis Smiley staple in trade. "Before we unpack that, how did you feel about...". You'd think he'd resort to some synonyms for variety.

    May 13, 2008