re·​luc·​tant ri-ˈlək-tənt How to pronounce reluctant (audio)
: feeling or showing aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness
reluctant to get involved
also : having or assuming a specified role unwillingly
a reluctant hero
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 In the late 1800s, Democrats and Republicans in Congress pressured a reluctant President William McKinley to go to war with Spain on behalf of Cuban independence. Elizabeth N. Saunders, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 The story culminates over water, as the last leg of Seydou and Moussa’s odyssey features a reluctant Seydou at the helm of a boat. Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post, 20 Feb. 2024 But Biden has seemed reluctant to tout these successes. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, 17 Feb. 2024 The reluctant socializer becomes a den mother to three girls, who all realize they have been emotionally abandoned by people in their lives. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Feb. 2024 The coincidence has transformed both women into reluctant school safety experts and willing advocates for stronger gun control. USA TODAY, 13 Feb. 2024 For his part, Jones does not appear a reluctant antagonist for Tennessee Republicans, who control the House with a supermajority, and for Speaker Sexton in particular. Dakin Andone, CNN, 13 Feb. 2024 Many of them are career federal workers reluctant to hand over power to Mitch McConnell and the party that sees them as burdensome to the nation. Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Baltimore Sun, 12 Feb. 2024 Jody, 65, is reluctant to sell the teams and has enjoyed being an NFL owner, hampering any potential sale despite a number of possible bidders, according to two people who have spoken with the Allen estate. Ira Boudway, Fortune, 9 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'reluctant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1638, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of reluctant was in 1638

Dictionary Entries Near reluctant

Cite this Entry

“Reluctant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


re·​luc·​tant ri-ˈlək-tənt How to pronounce reluctant (audio)
: showing doubt or unwillingness
reluctant to answer
reluctantly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on reluctant

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