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

Did You Know?

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

Despite the offer, the majority of Hondurans grew restive at the prospect of waiting for days or weeks following days of walking from their hometowns to Mexico. Juan Montes, WSJ, "Migrant Caravan Crosses Mexico’s Southern Border," 19 Oct. 2018 The suit, filed on Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, seeks to resolve a question of separation of powers at a time when the Council has become increasingly restive. J. David Goodman, New York Times, "No Friends of the Court: City Council Sues City’s Top Lawyer," 17 Apr. 2018 Tensions in restive areas have dramatically declined as the new government released several thousand prisoners, unblocked websites and welcomed opposition voices. Elias Meseret, Fox News, "Hundreds of thousands in Ethiopia welcome once-banned group," 15 Sep. 2018 Since Abiy, 42, became prime minister in April, his government has released several thousand prisoners and tensions in restive areas have dramatically declined. Washington Post, "Ethiopian parliament votes to end state of emergency," 5 June 2018 Since new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 42, was installed in April, several thousands of prisoners have been released and tensions in restive areas, notably Oromia, have dramatically declined. Elias Meseret, The Seattle Times, "Ethiopia ministers OK draft law to lift state of emergency," 2 June 2018 Soujar worries that fear is returning, noting the outcome of the Hirak protest movement in the restive Rif region, prompted by the death of a fish vendor who was crushed to death in a garbage compactor. Amira El Masaiti, The Seattle Times, "Morocco: Arab Spring anniversary brings reflection, beatings," 20 Feb. 2019 Elsewhere, the Denver strike vote was not the only other sign of a restive teacher labor force. Amanda Lee Myers, The Seattle Times, "Los Angeles teachers return to classes after reaching deal," 23 Jan. 2019 Violence has escalated in the restive region over the past few days, leaving at least three rebels and a soldier killed. Shah Abbas, The Seattle Times, "Pakistani accused in journalist’s death killed in Kashmir," 28 Nov. 2018

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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Last Updated

4 May 2019

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Time Traveler for restive

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on restive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with restive

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for restive

Spanish Central: Translation of restive

Nglish: Translation of restive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of restive for Arabic Speakers

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