un·​ruly | \ ˌən-ˈrü-lē How to pronounce unruly (audio) \
unrulier; unruliest

Definition of unruly

: not readily ruled, disciplined, or managed an unruly crowd a mane of unruly hair

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from unruly

unruliness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for unruly

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

Examples of unruly in a Sentence

unruly pupils were given detention as a matter of course a camp that was known as a place where unruly youths were given their last chance to shape up
Recent Examples on the Web The surge does not indicate that the internet in China is becoming more unruly. The Economist, "The year of the rat-fink Some people in China help the party police the internet," 18 Jan. 2020 Today, McKinsey acknowledges that potentially unruly inmates were intentionally excluded from the earliest Restart units, but says it was done only to give the consultants time to fine-tune their approach. Ian Macdougall, ProPublica, "New York City Paid McKinsey Millions to Stem Jail Violence. Instead, Violence Soared.," 10 Dec. 2019 Officers used pepper spray and mounted patrols to disperse crowds that got too unruly. Christopher Magan, Twin Cities, "Trump foes, supporters clash outside Target Center," 10 Oct. 2019 The crowd in the hallway after the verdict was boisterous but not unruly. Tribune News Service, oregonlive, "Former Dallas officer convicted of murder for killing neighbor, faces up to 99 years in prison," 2 Oct. 2019 Incidents involving unruly passengers had become less frequent but the offenses had become more serious, according to a study by an international airline trade group two years ago. Hugo Martin, chicagotribune.com, "Crackdown on unruly passengers on international flights starts Jan. 1," 12 Dec. 2019 Whether it’s unruly passengers, an abundance of alcohol, someone who tries to open the exit door for fresh air or spilled cleaning fluid that renders crew members unconscious, there are plenty of hazards in the air. Scott Mcmurren, Anchorage Daily News, "Flying is a big part of life in Alaska. We all have a role in ensuring safety comes first.," 26 Oct. 2019 The Uber driver who fatally shot a drunken, unruly passenger was found not guilty of murder by a Colorado jury on Thursday. Fox News, "Uber driver who fatally shot drunken passenger not guilty of murder," 11 Oct. 2019 An Alaska Airlines flight was forced to land at Kansas City International Airport after an unruly passenger threatened the safety of the aircraft. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Unruly passenger forces flight to land in Kansas City," 26 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'unruly.' 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 unruly

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for unruly

Middle English unreuly, from un- + reuly disciplined, from reule rule

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about unruly

Time Traveler for unruly

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for unruly

Last Updated

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unruly.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unruliness. Accessed 28 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unruly


How to pronounce unruly (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of unruly

disapproving : difficult to control


un·​ruly | \ ˌən-ˈrü-lē How to pronounce unruly (audio) \
unrulier; unruliest

Kids Definition of unruly

: difficult to control unruly hair

Other Words from unruly

unruliness noun

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on unruly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unruly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with unruly

Spanish Central: Translation of unruly

Nglish: Translation of unruly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unruly for Arabic Speakers

Comments on unruly

What made you want to look up unruly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!