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

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 solution to unruly kids on planes lies mostly with parents. Christopher Elliott, USA TODAY, 1 Jan. 2022 The plot focuses on a dysfunctional, unruly family that becomes humankind’s only hope when a warm and fuzzy operating system (and its devices) turn on its users and ushers in a robot apocalypse. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Dec. 2021 In the riot’s wake, prosecutors searched for tools to elevate some of the cases beyond the misdemeanor charges often applied for unruly but far less momentous Capitol protests. Aruna Viswanatha, WSJ, 29 Dec. 2021 The left is now an unruly mix, mainly divided between the Socialists, the Greens and the far-left France Unbowed — not to mention the constellation of small far-left parties that have emerged from the near collapse of the Communist Party. New York Times, 29 Dec. 2021 Biographers pretend that this cinder can be revealed, and that order can be imposed upon an unruly life. Jeremy Lybarger, The New Republic, 21 Dec. 2021 Trimble, the Gaslamp official, said the delay is frustrating because without a law in place the Police Department and the county Health Department are unable and unwilling to conduct enforcement on unruly vendors. David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Dec. 2021 The people begin to harass MJ, at which point Peter intervenes and zips away with her as the crowd starts to get unruly. Jacob Siegal, BGR, 10 Dec. 2021 González, who is a civil engineer by training, had used his analytical skills to learn how pitmasters in Texas combine seasonings, smoke and time to transform unruly slabs of brisket into sublime slices of melt-in-your-mouth beef. Washington Post, 6 Dec. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for unruly

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

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Last Updated

6 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Unruly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unruly. Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for unruly



English Language Learners Definition of unruly

: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on unruly

Nglish: Translation of unruly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unruly for Arabic Speakers


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