What’s the origin of unagreed?

I can find the word in Collin's Dictionary, used in parliamentary publications, as well as in American news articles.

However it's lacking from Merriam-Webster and there's no detail about it on Wiktionary.

Is this a Britishism that has started leaking across to American publications? Or was it originally American but has fallen out of use?

The etymology is obvious, but I'm looking for where the word originated.

Mainly due to its current meaning of 'not agreed' as opposed to the expected meaning if un-agreed (to undo an agreement).

  • 4
    As you say, the etymology is obvious (it's derived from an existing word using a still-productive morphological rule). So even if it never appears in a dictionary, the derived term will have been "re-coined" countless thousands of times by people who've never encountered it before. That's in addition to all the times someone has perhaps seen it used once or twice (most people get most of their vocabulary from what others say or write, not by looking things up in dictionaries). So I suggest there's no meaningful "origin" here. Jan 8 at 12:38
  • 2
    Curiously, Google Books show a spike in usage in the 1950/60s and then a gradual decline. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user 66974
    Jan 8 at 15:43
  • I first read that to mean something like “backsies” — once agreed upon but now not — rather than not yet agreed upon. An interesting exploration of un- vs. not... Jan 8 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


The earliest citation given by the OED dates from 1525:

1525 Ld. Berners tr. J. Froissart Cronycles II. clxxxiv. 556
Thoughe the lordes departed euery daye vnagreed, yet they departed asonder right amiably.

So it's been around for a long time. I don't think it's very common, however.

  • 1
    The depictive usage (as above) looks unfamiliar, but the attributive usage (eg 'an unagreed 2 per cent pay deal') sounds reasonably familiar to my ears. Jan 8 at 16:06
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth They do list a second version with of that's now marked obsolete, with this citation: “1661 R. Boyle Some Consider. Style of Script. (1675) 172 Which [part] is not onely less considerable, but is changeable and unagreed of.” That one sounds funny to me.
    – tchrist
    Jan 8 at 16:25

The problem is the difference between a verb and an adjective.

Unagreed is only an adjective (see citations from OED in other answers, which gives "unagreed" as an adjective.)

Unagree as a negative of the verb to agree, and in the sense given by

A: “But you agreed to sell me your car!” -- B: “Yes, and now I am unagreeing.

is simply a nonce use. The wrong verb has been chosen for effect, i.e. emphatic/dismissive reasons – it should be “reneging/disagreeing.”


A: “What did you think of the film? -- B: “I very much unenjoyed it.”

… an imaginative use of non-standard English.

We now come to the past participle as an adjective and this usually gives a past passive modification to its NP1:

Under the agreed terms – Under the terms that are, were, have/had been agreed.

I am not signing a contract with unagreed terms -> the terms that have not been (etc.) agreed.

1 There are some exceptions to this but they do not concern this question as they are chiefly ergative verbs of motion and change of state: The fallen tree -> the tree that has fallen; The melted ice = the ice that has melted.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.