res·​tive | \ˈre-stiv \

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

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 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, vowed to clear the region of the Kurdish fighters, who Turkey says are linked to the long-running insurgency in its restive southeast. Fox News, "Turkey promises 'safe zones' in Kurdish-held parts of Syria," 24 Sep. 2018 How restive are New York City Democratic primary voters? Reid J. Epstein, WSJ, "Primary Themes: A Bush Cousin, the Bernie Sanders Effect, Talking Like Trump," 26 June 2018 Adding to his woes, Modi’s other allies are restive, while opposition parties have begun to form alliances in an attempt to check his influence. Bibhudatta Pradhan,, "India's Ruling Coalition Loses a Second Ally as Pressure Builds," 20 June 2018 The voting populace was clearly restive, turning out in record numbers to oust Mayor Allison Silberberg in favor of Vice Mayor Justin Wilson and to choose four newcomers and two incumbents for Democratic nominations to the council. Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post, "Ousted Alexandria lawmakers had been stung by Metro entrance, meal-tax issues," 13 June 2018 The euro-zone debate may yet be derailed or diluted by restive parliaments in creditor countries battling ghosts of their own imagination. The Economist, "How policy debates in Europe become untethered from reality," 12 July 2018 After years of recession or anemic growth at best, punctuated by a staggering number of corruption scandals, the Brazilian electorate is angry and restive. Mario Sergio Lima,, "Brazil’s Opposing Presidential Front-Runners Dig In," 6 June 2018 In 2004, Lipka was a restive, alienated kid at the University of Kentucky, squandering a soccer scholarship. Gary Thompson,, "The Temple grad who tried - and failed - to mastermind a $20 million art heist," 6 June 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

14 Dec 2018

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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

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


res·​tive | \ˈre-stiv \

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

Comments on restive

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


to make faulty or ineffective

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