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

Definition of restive

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

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 Some observers believe that the current turmoil was triggered when Congo President Felix Tshisekedi late last year authorized neighboring Uganda and Burundi to deploy troops in the restive region. Nicholas Bariyo, WSJ, 27 July 2022 Meanwhile, the formula for ruling a restive territory in the face of armed opposition is 20 fighters for every 1,000 people — or 800,000 Russian troops for Ukraine’s more than 40 million people, Clarke notes. Ellen Knickmeyer, Anchorage Daily News, 20 Mar. 2022 There were obviously some restive players in Black and Gold sweaters who’d had enough of Cassidy’s brand of bluntness. Globe Staff,, 12 July 2022 Regional leaders under the East African Community bloc are working toward deploying a peacekeeping force in eastern Congo's restive provinces. Ignatius Ssuuna, ajc, 4 July 2022 Part of it was the status quo leadership of the era—which, for the most part, included Bill Clinton—and part of it was a restive electorate who wanted change but couldn’t define what that meant. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 27 June 2022 But with soaring food and fuel prices and wages that are failing to keep pace, Mr. Johnson is likely to face other restive workers across multiple industries. New York Times, 21 June 2022 As in 2009, if for different reasons, there is a restive mood among the public, a sense that the nation’s leaders have become decadent, complacent, out of touch. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 19 June 2022 Inside the hallways of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Russian military officers are hunting for spies among the restive Ukrainian workers. Drew Hinshaw, WSJ, 17 June 2022 See More

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.

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

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restitution nucleus



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Last Updated

16 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Restive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for restive


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

Kids Definition of restive

: showing impatience, nervousness, or discomfort a restive crowd

More from Merriam-Webster on restive

Nglish: Translation of restive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of restive for Arabic Speakers


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