way·​ward | \ ˈwā-wərd How to pronounce wayward (audio) \

Definition of wayward

1 : following one's own capricious, wanton, or depraved inclinations : ungovernable a wayward child
2 : following no clear principle or law : unpredictable
3 : opposite to what is desired or expected : untoward wayward fate

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from wayward

waywardly adverb
waywardness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for wayward

contrary, perverse, restive, balky, wayward mean inclined to resist authority or control. contrary implies a temperamental unwillingness to accept orders or advice. a contrary child perverse may imply wrongheaded, determined, or cranky opposition to what is reasonable or normal. a perverse, intractable critic restive suggests unwillingness or inability to submit to discipline or follow orders. tired soldiers growing restive balky suggests a refusing to proceed in a desired direction or course of action. a balky witness wayward suggests strong-willed capriciousness and irregularity in behavior. a school for wayward youths

Examples of wayward in a Sentence

parents of a wayward teenager had always been the most wayward of their three children
Recent Examples on the Web Monterey Bay Lab Rescue, which finds homes for wayward Labrador retrievers, says it’s trying to weed out the purely pandemic puppy seekers. Steve Rubenstein, SFChronicle.com, "Need a friend? Get a dog — if you can find one," 20 Dec. 2020 The network works with Guadalupe fur seal experts to help recover wayward fur seals found along the Oregon coastline. oregonlive, "Rare Guadalupe fur seal pup rescued on Oregon coast," 19 Dec. 2020 Though the prime minister was understandably concerned about her wayward son, the crisis in no way affected her later response to the Falklands War. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "A Brief History of the Falklands War," 23 Nov. 2020 Each admires her father, has a husband who supports her, indulges a wayward son, is guided by a Christian faith and is motivated strongly by duty. Stephen Fidler, WSJ, "‘The Crown’ Takes on Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy—How Well Does It Do?," 20 Nov. 2020 Both the novel and Minghella’s chillingly decorative film begin with a case of misidentification: The nondescript Ripley is taken by the shipbuilding magnate Herbert Greenleaf for an Ivy League classmate of his wayward son, Richard, known as Dickie. Megan O’grady, New York Times, "How ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ Foretold Our Era of Grifting," 12 Nov. 2020 Its last setback of the regular season will be remembered for a wayward kick in overtime, too. Edward Lee, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland falls, 27-24, in overtime to Rutgers without Tagovailoa and three starters," 12 Dec. 2020 His wayward tweets and antics—joking about taking the company private at $420 per share; smoking weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast—are brushed off as long as the proper numbers keep rising on the charts. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "Elon Musk’s Big Government Grift," 9 Dec. 2020 Bliss, who draws Martin perfectly – with a wayward smile and white hair – sends up his famous colleague when, in a strip chronicling their first meeting, the cartoon Martin name-drops Lady Gaga and Keanu Reeves. Peter Tonguette, The Christian Science Monitor, "Steve Martin brings the cartoon fun in ‘A Wealth of Pigeons’," 8 Dec. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wayward

Middle English, short for awayward turned away, from away, adverb + -ward

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about wayward

Time Traveler for wayward

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for wayward

Last Updated

30 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Wayward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wayward. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for wayward


How to pronounce wayward (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of wayward

: tending to behave in ways that are not socially acceptable
: not going or moving in the intended direction


way·​ward | \ ˈwā-wərd How to pronounce wayward (audio) \

Kids Definition of wayward

2 : not following a rule or regular course of action A wayward throw broke the window.

More from Merriam-Webster on wayward

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wayward

Nglish: Translation of wayward for Spanish Speakers

Comments on wayward

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!