: obedient, orderly
a ruly crowd

Did you know?

You're probably familiar with unruly, meaning "not readily controlled or disciplined." Have you ever wondered, "Is there a 'ruly' too?" If so, did it seem to you that such a word should exist? A little over 150 years ago, someone apparently followed that same thought process, creating "ruly" by dropping the prefix from "unruly." Whoever did so probably thought the coinage was a new one, but that's not quite the case. There had once been another "ruly" with much the same meaning as the modern term, but it had been out of use for over 200 years. Ultimately, "ruly" and "unruly" come from "reuly," a Middle English word meaning "disciplined." "Reuly" in turn comes from Middle English "reule," a predecessor of "rule."

Word History


back-formation from unruly

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ruly was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near ruly

Cite this Entry

“Ruly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ruly. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on ruly

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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