un·​ruly | \ˌən-ˈrü-lē \
unrulier; unruliest

Definition of unruly 

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

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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 boarding process on Boston subway platforms can be so unruly that transit officials have tried taping lines on the platforms to keep new passengers from blocking departing riders. Adam Vaccaro, BostonGlobe.com, "MBTA wants to put barriers, doors on subway platforms," 5 July 2018 If fans become too unruly and rude, referees on the pitch can stop or suspend a game. The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Russians may bare their teeth at the World Cup," 13 June 2018 During the campaign, Trump’s slander against Mexicans was repeated incessantly on Spanish-language news programs, sucking up the oxygen in living rooms across the Coachella Valley like a loud and unruly family member. Gabriel Thompson, Longreads, "Coachella, Underground," 12 Apr. 2018 The call was logged as three unruly guests who were refusing to leave. Justin Madden, cleveland.com, "Police called to Cleveland Heights restaurant after brunch dispute," 11 May 2018 Still, there are incidences when unruly audiences shut down speeches, particularly outside the U.S. Mari Uyehara, GQ, "How Free Speech Warriors Mainstreamed White Supremacists," 8 May 2018 TheaterWorks honcho Rob Ruggiero, who has directed regularly at Goodspeed for around a decade now, helms this tricky show, which requires highly skilled character actors, a large group of unruly children and a wardrobe of greatcoats and top hats. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, "Goodspeed To Stage Dickens' Tale Of Downtrodden 'Oliver Twist'," 19 June 2018 The goats appeared to have wandered away from a local farm, and the farmer, who was present for the daring rescue, collected his unruly children and took them back home. Aj Willingham, CNN, "Two goats make a huge mistake, get stranded on bridge," 6 Apr. 2018 Do schools need to punish unruly children earlier on and more harshly, in the hopes that doing so prevents larger, more violent transgressions later? Alia Wong, The Atlantic, "The Push for Harsher School Discipline After Parkland," 23 Mar. 2018

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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Statistics for unruly

Last Updated

31 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for unruly

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

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English Language Learners Definition of unruly

: difficult to control


un·​ruly | \ˌən-ˈrü-lē \
unrulier; unruliest

Kids Definition of unruly

: difficult to control unruly hair

Other Words from unruly

unruliness noun

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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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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