res·​tive | \ ˈre-stiv How to pronounce restive (audio) \

Definition of restive

1 : stubbornly resisting control : balky
2 : marked by impatience or uneasiness : fidgety

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Other Words from restive

restively adverb
restiveness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for restive

contrary, perverse, restive, balky, wayward mean inclined to resist authority or control. contrary implies a temperamental unwillingness to accept orders or advice. a contrary child perverse may imply wrongheaded, determined, or cranky opposition to what is reasonable or normal. a perverse, intractable critic restive suggests unwillingness or inability to submit to discipline or follow orders. tired soldiers growing restive balky suggests a refusing to proceed in a desired direction or course of action. a balky witness wayward suggests strong-willed capriciousness and irregularity in behavior. a school for wayward youths

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Restive ultimately comes from the Anglo-French word rester, meaning "to stop, resist, or remain." In its earliest use, restive meant "sluggish" or "inactive," though this sense is no longer in use. Another early sense was "stubborn, obstinate." Specifically, restive often referred to horses that refused to do as commanded. This general application to unruly horses may have influenced the development of the "fidgety, impatient" sense of restive. Some usage commentators have objected to this newer sense, but it has been in use for well over a century, and is now the more common of the uses.

Examples of restive in a Sentence

the restive horse threw its head and refused to move when the rider urged it forward spent a restive night worrying about the next day's exam
Recent Examples on the Web The clashes began last month in restive Papua province after rebels set fire to several schools and killed two teachers in Beoga village in Puncak district. Alfian Kartono, Star Tribune, 13 May 2021 But there will still be significant clashes to come, perhaps most notably on the West Coast, which has lagged behind the rest of the country on reopening, and where unions have been especially restive. New York Times, 13 May 2021 Beijing has brought stability and economic development to its restive western region, and information suggesting otherwise has been fabricated by United States intelligence agencies, a racist scholar, and lying witnesses, Xinhua said. Erika Kinetz, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 May 2021 Families of people who disappeared in Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province ended a 10-day sit-in near parliament in Islamabad on Saturday, after a government minister promised to look into their relatives' case files. Zarar Khan, Star Tribune, 20 Feb. 2021 The potential crisis situation on the Ukrainian-Russian border began in late March when a ceasefire in the restive Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine was feared broken. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, 23 Apr. 2021 But the bombing spotlights the harsh reality of a grand global engineering project across some of the world’s most restive territory. Time, 22 Apr. 2021 And in fact, other countries take cues from us on how to discipline their restive populations. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 19 Apr. 2021 In July 2020, Ukraine reached a ceasefire in the restive Donetsk region, where Russia has supported Ukrainian separatists. Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner, 7 Apr. 2021

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

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First Known Use of restive

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for restive

Middle English restyf, from Anglo-French restif, from rester to stop, resist, remain

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Time Traveler for restive

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The first known use of restive was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

24 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Restive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for restive



English Language Learners Definition of restive

formal : feeling bored or impatient while waiting for something to happen or change


res·​tive | \ ˈre-stiv How to pronounce restive (audio) \

Kids Definition of restive

: showing impatience, nervousness, or discomfort a restive crowd


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