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Rewind vs. Unwind: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
"Rewind" means to go back to an earlier point, while "unwind" means to relax.

Key Differences

Rewind is a verb that typically refers to the action of turning back a clock or returning a video or audio tape to its beginning. In contrast, unwind means to relax or de-stress after being in a state of tension.
When you rewind a film, you are literally causing it to play in reverse, often to watch a particular scene again. Unwind does not involve reversal but instead implies a progression from tension to relaxation.
Technologically, rewind can refer to the function of moving data to an initial position in devices. However, to unwind usually has no technological connotation and instead refers to personal relaxation techniques.
In terms of physical objects, to rewind something could mean to re-coil it into its original form, such as rewinding a yarn after knitting. To unwind, on the other hand, would mean to uncoil or release tension.
Conceptually, rewind can also be used metaphorically to refer to looking back in time or revisiting past events in one's mind. Unwind is seldom used in a metaphorical sense and is more about achieving a state of mental or physical ease.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech



Usually present or past
Usually present or past

Usage in Tech

Common (e.g., media players)

Physical Action

Reversing or returning to a starting point
Releasing or becoming less tight

Metaphorical Use

Looking back in time
Reducing stress or relaxing

Rewind and Unwind Definitions


To turn back a clock or timer.
Can you rewind the clock for daylight savings?


To relax or reduce stress.
She likes to unwind with a good book.


To go back in time or order.
Let's rewind to the beginning of the story.


To become less tight or tense.
After yoga, her muscles began to unwind.


To reverse the winding of tape or film.
He rewound the cassette after listening.


To disengage mentally from work or effort.
On weekends, I unwind by turning off my email.


To reverse a process or action.
The scientist wished to rewind the experiment stages.


To uncoil something wound.
He unwound the rope from the post.


To revisit past thoughts or events.
I often rewind my day in my mind before sleeping.


To conclude the winding operation of a mechanism.
The clock will unwind completely by tomorrow.


To wind again or anew
Rewound the thread on the spool.


To reverse the winding or twisting of
Unwind a ball of yarn.


To reverse the winding of (audiotape, videotape, or film).


To separate the tangled parts of; disentangle.


To free (someone) of nervous tension or pent-up energy.


What does it mean to rewind a video?

To play it backward to a previous point.

Can rewind be used figuratively?

Yes, to refer to going back in time or memories.

How do you use rewind in a sentence?

"I had to rewind the tape to see the scene again."

Is unwind ever used in technology?

Rarely, it's mostly used in personal contexts.

Is unwind a physical or mental process?

It can be both, such as unwinding a rope or relaxing one's mind.

Does unwind have an opposite?

Yes, to wind up or to tense up.

Can you unwind a sweater?

Yes, it means to unravel it.

What does it mean to unwind a watch?

To let its mechanism come to a stop.

What does unwind mean in terms of stress?

It means to relax and relieve stress.

Can I say "rewind my work"?

Metaphorically, yes, to mean revisiting or redoing it.

Is unwind always leisurely?

Typically, it implies a leisurely pace or relaxation.

Does rewind always mean to go backward?

In most contexts, yes, to an earlier state or position.

Are rewind and unwind antonyms?

Not directly, but they can be opposites in some contexts.

What's the noun form of rewind?

Rewind can be a noun, meaning the act of rewinding.

Is there a physical tool for rewind?

Yes, devices like tape rewinders or media player controls.

Can I use rewind about digital media?

Absolutely, like rewinding a digital track or video.

Can unwind be used for a vacation?

Yes, meaning to relax or take a break from routine.

How does unwind relate to time?

It doesn't relate to time but to a state of relaxation.

Can machines unwind?

Yes, if they have been wound up previously, they can unwind.

What's the opposite of unwind?

Wind up, tense up, or in some cases, rewind.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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