wanton

adjective
wan·​ton | \ˈwȯn-tᵊn, ˈwän- \

Definition of wanton 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : merciless, inhumane wanton cruelty

b : having no just foundation or provocation : malicious a wanton attack

2 : being without check or limitation: such as

a : unduly lavish : extravagant wanton imagination

b : luxuriantly rank wanton vegetation

3a : lewd, bawdy

b : causing sexual excitement : lustful, sensual

4a : playfully mean or cruel : mischievous

b archaic : hard to control : undisciplined, unruly

wanton

noun

Definition of wanton (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : one given to self-indulgent flirtation or trifling used especially in the phrase play the wanton

b : a lewd or lascivious person

2 : a pampered person or animal : pet especially : a spoiled child

3 : a frolicsome child or animal

wanton

verb
wantoned; wantoning; wantons

Definition of wanton (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to be wanton or act wantonly (see wanton entry 1)

transitive verb

: to pass or waste wantonly or in wantonness

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Other Words from wanton

Adjective

wantonly adverb
wantonness \ˈwȯn-​tᵊn-​nəs, ˈwän-​ \ noun

Verb

wantoner noun

Examples of wanton in a Sentence

Adjective

No artist should be subjected to this much wanton affection: it's unseemly, like being hugged by a stranger who won't let go. — James Wolcott, New Republic, 30 Aug. 2004 I also wrote that innocent people would die as a consequence of the wanton, lawless destruction of medical stocks in a dirt-poor country. — Christopher Hitchens, Nation, 31 May 1999 While I was happy to find Mr. Pollan firmly allied with those of us who oppose the wanton broadcast of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers on lawn and garden, I wish he had lingered a little longer over this vital subject. — Maxine Kumin, New York Times Book Review, 9 June 1991 Vandals were guilty of the wanton destruction of the school property. They were accused of wanton cruelty toward animals. He showed a wanton disregard for his friend's feelings. a life of wanton luxury

Noun

He practiced the anathema he would hurl at her from his pulpit when her shame was known—hussy, slut, harlot and wanton featured heavily … — James A. Michener, Texas, 1985 During the middle years of their marriage … his campaign to free his bride so that she could become a wanton had languished. — Andrew M. Greeley, Ascent into Hell, 1983 My informal education had begun the afternoon in Belleville Park when I discovered that girls were wantons willing to sneak away to shaded glades to be kissed. — Russell Baker, Growing Up, 1982

Verb

It might well be, said Mrs McNab, wantoning on with her memories; they had friends in eastern countries; gentlemen staying there, ladies in evening dress; she had seen them once through the dining-room door all sitting at dinner. — Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, 1927 … for Nature here / Wantoned as in her prime and played at will / Her virgin fancies, pouring forth more sweet, Wild above rule or art, enormous bliss. — John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Bush was jailed on $5 million bond Thursday on two counts of murder and 10 counts of felony wanton endangerment. Dylan Lovan, The Seattle Times, "Hate crime considered in Kentucky grocery shooting," 26 Oct. 2018 Collett said Mosely was in jail on various drug and theft charges while Price was serving time for various counts including burglary, wanton endangerment on a police officer and driving under the influence. Rebecca Reynolds Yonker, Fox News, "Police: 2 Kentucky inmates injure jail staff, escape," 22 Aug. 2018 He was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, wanton endangerment, and for fleeing and evading police, per the Ashland Police Department. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "A Teen Led Police on a 90-Mile High-Speed Chase Through Kentucky," 22 Aug. 2018 Last month, a Kentucky man was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and wanton endangerment for doing just that. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "How to Shoot Down a Drone," 6 Aug. 2015 Explanation notwithstanding, he was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and wanton destruction of property under $250. Emily Sweeney, BostonGlobe.com, "In Wareham, a case of SUV-dipping," 6 July 2018 Year of the Bird In 1918 Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect birds from wanton killing. National Geographic, "What Does It Take to Raise a Flamingo?," 25 June 2018 Such wanton violence probably reflects the state of mind of Mr Shekau, an enigmatic figure known through videos of his rambling monologues. The Economist, "The fight against Islamic State is moving to Africa," 14 July 2018 The main, if not only, cause of the collapse of the northern white rhino, and the devastation of black and southern white rhinos, is wanton killing of the animals, primarily for their horns. Jason Florio, Smithsonian, "The Dangerous Work of Relocating 5,000-Pound Rhinos," 22 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

His rhetoric, his callousness, his wanton lies all make a compromise harder. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "If We Want to End the Border Crisis, It’s Time to Give Trump His Wall," 22 June 2018 Anzelone was arraigned Wednesday in Milford District Court on charges of open and gross lewdness; lewd, wanton, and lascivious conduct; indecent exposure; and accosting or annoying another person, authorities said. Travis Andersen, BostonGlobe.com, "Milford teacher, 40, allegedly exposed himself to teen Walmart worker in store bathroom," 24 May 2018 The erotic scenes are dialectical as well as hot; the meetings have a wanton, feverish energy. A. O. Scott, New York Times, "Review: ‘BPM (Beats Per Minute)’ Captures the Fierce AIDS Fight," 19 Oct. 2017 The extremists have left a trail of wanton, sometimes bizarre, destruction. National Geographic, "Iraq's Unique Wildlife Pushed to Brink by War, Hunting," 6 Feb. 2017

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

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4b

Noun

1509, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1582, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for wanton

Adjective

Middle English, from wan- deficient, wrong, mis- (from Old English, from wan deficient) + towen, past participle of teen to draw, train, discipline, from Old English tēon — more at tow entry 1

Noun

see wanton entry 1

Verb

see wanton entry 1

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Statistics for wanton

Last Updated

22 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for wanton

The first known use of wanton was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for wanton

wanton

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of wanton

: showing no thought or care for the rights, feelings, or safety of others

: not limited or controlled

of a woman : having sex with many men

wanton

adjective
wan·​ton | \ˈwȯn-tᵊn \

Kids Definition of wanton

1 : not modest or proper : indecent

2 : showing no thought or care for the rights, feelings, or safety of others wanton cruelty

Other Words from wanton

wantonly adverb
wantonness noun

wanton

adjective
wan·​ton | \ˈwänt-ᵊn, ˈwȯnt- \

Legal Definition of wanton 

: manifesting extreme indifference to a risk of injury to another that is known or should have been known : characterized by knowledge of and utter disregard for probability of resulting harm a wanton act by such wanton or willful misconduct — see also reckless

Note: Wanton reckless, and willful are often used to refer to an aggravated level of negligence that borders on intent and that is often ground for an award of punitive damages.

Other Words from wanton

wantonly adverb
wantonness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on wanton

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wanton

Spanish Central: Translation of wanton

Nglish: Translation of wanton for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of wanton for Arabic Speakers

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