un·ruly | \ ˌən-ˈrü-lē \
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 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 The results are quick and instant–your frizzy and unruly hair will be transformed into polished and texturized wavy locks. Melanie Yates, Woman's Day, "This Styling Cream Gives You A Perfect Blowout Look In Just Under A Minute," 20 Aug. 2015 The task of taking pressure off the coastal estuaries is complicated by May’s record rains and the difficulty of operating South Florida’s unruly flood-control system, in which addressing one problem often creates another. David Fleshler, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to be reduced," 21 June 2018 Russia is working with FIFA and authorities in Britain and other countries to identify threats , and threatens to deport anyone unruly. Washington Post, "Russia’s World Cup headache: Keeping it safe, keeping it fun," 17 June 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.

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

Dictionary Entries near unruly








Statistics for unruly

Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for unruly

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for unruly



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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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!