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I was checking the definition of the word "tenebrous" that I saw this example:

The crew bunks in a decaying hotel with infinitely unfurling tenebrous corridors

What does unfurling mean in that sentence? Why does the author use that word? I mean I know the definiton of the verb "unfurl", but I cannot get the exact and intended meaning of the sentence.

  • A first for me, a question here taught me a new word ("tenebrous"), when that word wasn't even your question! :D – BruceWayne Dec 9 '16 at 20:56
  • @BruceWayne Cool. I was reading about the meaning of the word and I came across with that example. I'm happy there is something positive in my question. – Cardinal Dec 9 '16 at 21:49
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    As the visitors walk along an extremely long corridor in the darkness, it seems they are unravelling a never ending aisle, it's almost like driving an unfamiliar long stretch of road that has no street lighting, the driver only sees what is lying directly ahead, until the next bit is "unfurled". – Mari-Lou A Dec 10 '16 at 8:17
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A rolled up parchment can be unfurled, or a tarpaulin. The sail of a ship is furled and unfurled. When something is unfurled it is unrolled or rolled out. Each corridor extends out in front of the viewer like something that has been unrolled. The corridors keep unfurling, one after the other. Since the example speaks of a crew the word may have been chosen to evoke a maritime context.

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In this context, "unfurl" is used figuratively, in the sense of sprawling or spreading out in an untidy, disorderly fashion.

So "infintely unfurling corridors" evokes images of a seemingly unnavigable and never-ending web of corridors, like one might see in an old hotel, country house or other large building.

  • A corridor stretches out, in a linear fashion, especially in hotels. Hotel corridors do not sprawl haphazardly or spread out like a web. – Mari-Lou A Dec 10 '16 at 8:22
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    @Mari-LouA, you've obviously never stayed in some seaside B&B establishments in the UK... – Roger Lipscombe Dec 10 '16 at 14:08
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Given the definition of tenebrous from your link ("Dark; shadowy or obscure"), there's an implication that the crew can't see the ends of the corridors when they start down them. Thus as they walk along a hallway it seems to "unfurl" before them as more of it becomes visible to them through the gloom. The imagery is much like a long carpet runner being unrolled, seemingly endlessly.

(The creepiness of the setting is increased by the fact that the corridor would be furling up behind them as their starting point is lost in the shadows.)

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I agree on the contextual usage of the verb unfurl as spread out suggested by the previous answerer; although I can't see where "in an untidy, disorderly fashion" comes from other than that the hotel was decaying - it might not be that.

To picture how the verb to unfurl works in your sentence, I suggest the image of quickly unfurling flowers to be compared with that of "unfurling corridors". The other common nouns collocating with "unfurl" (in its literal meaning synonymous to unroll) are a flag, sail, wing, umbrella, letter and so on.

  • "untidy" comes from the very definition of "sprawling" in pretty much any dictionary – D. Nelson Dec 9 '16 at 10:34
  • It doesn't come from the definitions of "unfurl", or "spread" does it? – VictorB Dec 9 '16 at 10:39
  • I never said it did. – D. Nelson Dec 9 '16 at 10:44
  • @D.Nelson: Yes, you did. Your exact words were, "In this context, 'unfurl' is used figuratively, in the sense of sprawling or spreading out in an untidy, disorderly fashion." In other words, you claimed not only that "sprawling" implies untidiness, but also that "unfurl" implies (in this case) both. – ruakh Dec 10 '16 at 1:39

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