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

Definition of restive

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Several opposition supporters have been killed in clashes with security forces over the past 10 days, while militants have launched repeated attacks in Congo’s restive east. Gabriele Steinhauser, WSJ, "Congo Postpones Vote to Elect Successor to Kabila by a Week," 20 Dec. 2018 The refugees’ arrival in Rwanda coincides with a rise in militia violence in Congo’s restive east. Washington Post, "Over 2,500 Burundi refugees in Congo seek shelter in Rwanda," 8 Mar. 2018 The refugees' arrival in Rwanda coincides with a rise in militia violence in Congo's restive east. Fox News, "Over 2,500 Burundi refugees in Congo seek shelter in Rwanda," 8 Mar. 2018 India’s unilateral redrawing of the borders of its restive Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) state yesterday (Aug. 5) could have far-reaching consequences on democracy and separatism in the region. Kuwar Singh, Quartz India, "India will have a difficult time resurrecting democracy in Kashmir," 5 Aug. 2019 Egyptian security officials are saying that six policemen were wounded by a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol vehicle in the restive northern Sinai province. Ashraf Sweilam, Fox News, "Egypt officials say roadside bomb wounds 6 police in Sinai," 13 June 2019 Modi claimed the decision would bring stability to the restive territory. Charlotte Carroll,, "Raiders CB Gareon Conley 'Good to Go' After Getting Stretchered Off vs. Broncos," 10 Sep. 2019 Many of its restive members long to quit government and lick their wounds in opposition. The Economist, "Elections in the east test Germany’s creaky unity government," 31 Aug. 2019 His appearance suggested that FARC groups in restive Cauca could heed the faction's call to arms. Author: Dylan Baddour, Anthony Faiola, Anchorage Daily News, "As Colombia peace accord unravels, ex-FARC leaders say they’ll return to armed conflict," 29 Aug. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about restive

Listen to Our Podcast about restive

Statistics for restive

Last Updated

19 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for restive

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


something of little or no value

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!