re·luc·tant | \ri-ˈlək-tənt \

Definition of reluctant 

: feeling or showing aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness reluctant to get involved also : having or assuming a specified role unwillingly a reluctant hero

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from reluctant

reluctantly adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for reluctant


cagey (also cagy), disinclined, dubious, hesitant, indisposed, loath (also loth), reticent


disposed, inclined

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for reluctant

disinclined, hesitant, reluctant, loath, averse mean lacking the will or desire to do something indicated. disinclined implies lack of taste for or inclination. disinclined to move again disinclined for reading hesitant implies a holding back especially through fear or uncertainty. hesitant about asking for a date reluctant implies a holding back through unwillingness. a reluctant witness loath implies hesitancy because of conflict with one's opinions, predilections, or liking. seems loath to trust anyone averse implies a holding back from or avoiding because of distaste or repugnance. averse to hard work not averse to an occasional drink

Examples of reluctant in a Sentence

94% of the butterflies are females, and they jostle for the attention of the few males, who seem reluctant suitors. — Carl Zimmer, Science, 11 May 2001 When I missed five in a row and was reluctant to take the next shot or didn't really follow through, my teammates would yell, "Brick!" — Bill Bradley, New York Times, 18 Dec. 1994 The man swore sullenly. He went over to a corner and slowly began to put on his coat. He took his hat and went out, with a dragging, reluctant step. — Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, 1893 The woman seemed desirous, yet reluctant, to speak, and answered, in low, mysterious tone. — Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852 We were reluctant to get involved. He might agree but seems reluctant to admit it.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But the Department of Health and Human Services has been reluctant to provide details of the process. Aaron Leibowitz, miamiherald, "Harsh prison or cushy camp? Ex-staffers have different takes on life at Homestead shelter," 11 July 2018 Reconstruction will cost hundreds of billions, which neither Syria nor Iran and Russia have and which the international community will be reluctant to provide. Thomas Juneau, Washington Post, "Why Iran’s involvement in Syria may backfire," 12 June 2018 Just last week the justices seemed reluctant to rule that Trump doesn’t have the authority to implement the travel ban. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "With dueling DACA cases, Supreme Court showdown seems inevitable," 4 May 2018 District Attorney Edmund Dinis seemed noticeably reluctant to enter the case at all, then pressed belatedly—and vainly—for court permission to exhume Mary Jo’s body so that an autopsy could be performed. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "The True Story Behind the Movie Chappaquiddick," 6 Apr. 2018 Studies have found, for example, that Swedes are more reluctant to give to Bulgarians than to Dutch migrants. The Economist, "The welfare state needs updating," 12 July 2018 Dressed in jeans and leaning on the bleachers, Jeter is reluctant to take the court. Staff,, "Nine Innings: Inside J.D. Martinez's Essential Role With the Red Sox and the Best of Mike Trout," 25 June 2018 Often, countries are reluctant to take back their citizens in large numbers. Frances D'emilio, Fox News, "Italy vows to expel far more migrants, but it won't be easy," 22 June 2018 For much of the past year, the Ball family had been reluctant to provide details on Tina’s stroke and her road to recovery. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "LaVar Ball said his wife had a stroke 'so she can be quiet for a minute'," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reluctant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of reluctant

1638, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for reluctant

Latin reluctant-, reluctans, present participle of reluctari to struggle against, from re- + luctari to struggle

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about reluctant

Statistics for reluctant

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for reluctant

The first known use of reluctant was in 1638

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for reluctant



English Language Learners Definition of reluctant

: feeling or showing doubt about doing something : not willing or eager to do something


re·luc·tant | \ri-ˈlək-tənt \

Kids Definition of reluctant

: showing doubt or unwillingness She was reluctant to go.

Other Words from reluctant

reluctantly adverb

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on reluctant

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


one that holds something together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!