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 In contrast, Inner Mongolia, where almost twice as many ethnic Mongols reside than in Mongolia, is seen as a much less restive place. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "China’s insatiable appetite for control is forcing even its “model minority” to rebel," 3 Sep. 2020 By overhauling education, government officials argue, citizens in restive areas from Xinjiang to Hong Kong could be instilled with a sense of patriotism and gain opportunities for economic advancement. Washington Post, "Chinese authorities face widespread anger in Inner Mongolia after requiring Mandarin-language classes," 31 Aug. 2020 The gold rush had gone bust, and thousands of restive settlers were left scurrying about, hot after the next ever-elusive mineral bonanza. Tom Philpott, Wired, "The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California," 29 Aug. 2020 Curiosity is restive, always threatening to chase the next shiny object that pops into view. Eric Weiner, Fortune, "The business advice Socrates would give if he wrote a management book today," 25 Aug. 2020 Chinese authorities argue that their repressive measures are merely bringing law and order to an unacceptably restive city. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "China’s unrelenting crackdown on Hong Kong," 11 Aug. 2020 Worldwide lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19 had a devastating impact on crude demand at a time when shale explorers were already struggling with too much debt and restive shareholders. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Drilling drops to 15-year low in Permian Basin and other U.S. oil patches," 8 Aug. 2020 Bluster isn’t beating the virus; belligerence isn’t calming a restive nation. Calvin Woodward, The Denver Post, "Trump’s bluster doesn’t beat a virus, calm a restive nation," 5 July 2020 There is also a clear message for Russia’s dissenting minorities, including restive urban liberals and the still-powerful Communist Party. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, "Putin set to get his new constitution. But Russians ask, ‘Why now?’," 30 June 2020

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

8 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Restive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 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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