Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


adjective \ˈrü-lē\

Definition of ruly

  1. :  obedient, orderly <a ruly crowd>

Did You Know?

You're probably familiar with unruly, meaning "not readily controlled or disciplined." Have you ever wondered, "Is there a 'ruly' too?" If so, did it seem to you that such a word should exist? A little over 150 years ago, someone apparently followed that same thought process, creating "ruly" by dropping the prefix from "unruly." Whoever did so probably thought the coinage was a new one, but that's not quite the case. There had once been another "ruly" with much the same meaning as the modern term, but it had been out of use for over 200 years. Ultimately, "ruly" and "unruly" come from "reuly," a Middle English word meaning "disciplined." "Reuly" in turn comes from Middle English "reule," a predecessor of "rule."

Origin of ruly

back-formation from unruly

First Known Use: 1837

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ruly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to expose to danger or risk

Get Word of the Day daily email!