un·​gov·​ern·​able ˌən-ˈgə-vər-nə-bəl How to pronounce ungovernable (audio)
: not capable of being governed, guided, or restrained
Choose the Right Synonym for ungovernable

unruly, ungovernable, intractable, refractory, recalcitrant, willful, headstrong mean not submissive to government or control.

unruly implies lack of discipline or incapacity for discipline and often connotes waywardness or turbulence of behavior.

unruly children

ungovernable implies either an escape from control or guidance or a state of being unsubdued and incapable of controlling oneself or being controlled by others.

ungovernable rage

intractable suggests stubborn resistance to guidance or control.

intractable opponents of the hazardous-waste dump

refractory stresses resistance to attempts to manage or to mold.

special schools for refractory children

recalcitrant suggests determined resistance to or defiance of authority.

acts of sabotage by a recalcitrant populace

willful implies an obstinate determination to have one's own way.

a willful disregard for the rights of others

headstrong suggests self-will impatient of restraint, advice, or suggestion.

a headstrong young cavalry officer

Example Sentences

The people there seemed almost ungovernable. a handful of ungovernable students are disrupting the learning environment for everyone else
Recent Examples on the Web And if the slim Republican majority in the House is especially ungovernable, that will give Biden even more clout in budget negotiations to push for more climate funding. Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, 11 Nov. 2022 Mehta is not an easy act to follow, yet Shani is clearly the right guy — tough and terrific — at the right time and place for this famously ungovernable orchestra. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2022 Large areas of the north and east have become ungovernable since 2018. Reuters, CNN, 30 Sep. 2022 Extremist violence was already on the rise under President Roch Marc Kaboré, rendering much of the countryside ungovernable. Borso Tall, Washington Post, 16 June 2022 Some of this is in consequence of Johnson’s own incurable temperament and ungovernable appetites. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The New Republic, 11 July 2022 Women will become ungovernable as these unjust laws begin to be the law of the land in states across the country. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, 4 May 2022 The old nostrum that France is ungovernable may be tested again. New York Times, 23 Apr. 2022 During his tenure, militants linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have upended life in the nation of 21 million, rendering much of the countryside ungovernable and driving at least 1.4 million people from their homes. Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ungovernable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1673, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ungovernable was in 1673

Dictionary Entries Near ungovernable

Cite this Entry

“Ungovernable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ungovernable. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



un·​gov·​ern·​able ˌən-ˈgəv-ər-nə-bəl How to pronounce ungovernable (audio)
: not capable of being governed, guided, or controlled
an ungovernable temper
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.