adjective wan·ton \ˈwn-tən, ˈwän-\

: showing no thought or care for the rights, feelings, or safety of others

: not limited or controlled

of a woman : having sex with many men

Full Definition of WANTON

a archaic :  hard to control :  undisciplined, unruly
b :  playfully mean or cruel :  mischievous
a :  lewd, bawdy
b :  causing sexual excitement :  lustful, sensual
a :  merciless, inhumane <wanton cruelty>
b :  having no just foundation or provocation :  malicious <a wanton attack>
:  being without check or limitation: as
a :  luxuriantly rank <wanton vegetation>
b :  unduly lavish :  extravagant <wanton imagination>
wan·ton·ly adverb
wan·ton·ness \-tən-nəs\ noun

Examples of WANTON

  1. Vandals were guilty of the wanton destruction of the school property.
  2. They were accused of wanton cruelty toward animals.
  3. He showed a wanton disregard for his friend's feelings.
  4. a life of wanton luxury
  5. No artist should be subjected to this much wanton affection: it's unseemly, like being hugged by a stranger who won't let go. —James Wolcott, New Republic, 30 Aug. 2004

Origin of WANTON

Middle English, from wan- deficient, wrong, mis- (from Old English, from wan deficient) + towen, past participle of teen to draw, train, discipline, from Old English tēon — more at tow
First Known Use: 14th century


noun wan·ton \ˈwn-tən, ˈwän-\

Definition of WANTON

a :  one given to self-indulgent flirtation or trifling —used especially in the phrase play the wanton
b :  a lewd or lascivious person
:  a pampered person or animal :  pet; especially :  a spoiled child
:  a frolicsome child or animal

Examples of WANTON

  1. <at the office party, count on her to get drunk and play the wanton>
  2. He practiced the anathema he would hurl at her from his pulpit when her shame was known—hussy, slut, harlot and wanton featured heavily … —James A. Michener, Texas, 1985

Origin of WANTON

(see 1wanton)
First Known Use: 1509

Related to WANTON


verb wan·ton \ˈwn-tən, ˈwän-\

Definition of WANTON

intransitive verb
:  to be wanton or act wantonly (see 1wanton)
transitive verb
:  to pass or waste wantonly or in wantonness
wan·ton·er noun

Examples of WANTON

  1. It might well be, said Mrs McNab, wantoning on with her memories; they had friends in eastern countries; gentlemen staying there, ladies in evening dress; she had seen them once through the dining-room door all sitting at dinner. —Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 1927

Origin of WANTON

(see 1wanton)
First Known Use: 1582
WANTONNESS Defined for Kids


adjective wan·ton \ˈwn-tən\

Definition of WANTON for Kids

:  not modest or proper :  indecent
:  showing no thought or care for the rights, feelings, or safety of others <wanton cruelty>
wan·ton·ly adverb
wan·ton·ness noun


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