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 Beijing would seem to have its hands full managing events in Hong Kong and other restive regions like Xinjiang and Tibet, economic fallout from the coronavirus, the U.S.-China trade spat, and steering China’s rise to dominance in a dynamic Asia. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "How China’s heavy steps in Hong Kong reverberate in Taiwan," 12 June 2020 That explanation has done little to appease restive employees who believe Zuckerberg is stretching Facebook's policies to avoid a confrontation with Trump. NBC News, "Mark Zuckerberg stands by decision on Trump posts amid mounting employee frustration," 30 May 2020 Although several Chinese cities -- including Shanghai -- saw improvement in air quality, Kashgar and Hotan in the restive, western Xinjiang region were among the world’s worst. Iain Marlow,, "Two-Thirds of the World’s Most Polluted Cities Are in India," 12 May 2020 House Democratic leaders have already begun talking about the need for a fourth relief package, assuring restive Democrats that more of their priorities will be in the next bill. al, "House approves $2 trillion coronavirus relief package," 27 Mar. 2020 India’s policing culture has long been brutal, biased, anti-minority and almost colonial in character, a holdover from the days of British rule when the police had no illusions of serving the public but were used to suppress a restive population. New York Times, "How Delhi’s Police Turned Against Muslims," 12 Mar. 2020 Ambiguous relationship The story did not end in 1965. Silencing the Mau Mau movement was also about sending subtle but powerful messages to the restive Meru population. Anaïs Angelo Chercheuse, Quartz Africa, "Why Kenya’s pre-independence rebel fighters Mau Mau gave up their fight," 13 Feb. 2020 Analysts think that Iran, which has severe economic problems and a restive population at home, will now seek to avoid open conflict with the United States while opportunistically striking back against American interests. Charles Riley, CNN, "What do experts see as the biggest risk to the world in 2020? American politics," 15 Jan. 2020 At home, Chirac’s anti-war stance shielded him against backlash from a restive Muslim population, the largest in Europe. Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, "Jacques Chirac, former French president and leading Iraq war opponent, dies at 86," 26 Sep. 2019

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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

16 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Restive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for restive


How to pronounce restive (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for restive

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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