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

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-largest country by population, is a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa and an important source of stability in the restive region. Washington Post, "Ethiopia’s army chief, 3 other officials killed in renegade general’s coup attempt, government says," 25 June 2019 But the political parties that make up the coalition now face stiff competition in their own backyards, including in the restive Amhara region. Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Africa, "Ethiopia’s coup attempt spells disaster for its democratic transition," 24 June 2019 Ethiopia is a key regional ally of the U.S. in the restive Horn of Africa region., "Ethiopia says military chief killed, regional coup failed," 23 June 2019 It’s unclear if Morrison can provide that boost, though Brown added that the prime minister will at least have a less restive party to lead, as right-wing media and harder line conservatives will likely fall in line, for now. Jen Kirby, Vox, "What the hell is happening with Australia’s prime minister, explained," 25 Aug. 2018 All along the wall the aunts are restive, some straining to listen, leaning forward, cupping a paw to an ear. Anne Carson, Harper's magazine, "From a manuscript in progress. Carson’s collection of performance pieces," 10 June 2019 But there are signs that Islamic State is trying to return, particularly in Iraq’s restive Anbar province. Nancy A. Youssef, WSJ, "Trump, First Lady Visit U.S. Troops in Iraq," 26 Dec. 2018 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

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

13 Jul 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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