way·​ward ˈwā-wərd How to pronounce wayward (audio)
: following one's own capricious, wanton, or depraved inclinations : ungovernable
a wayward child
: following no clear principle or law : unpredictable
: opposite to what is desired or expected : untoward
wayward fate
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 Faithfully adapted by Michael Blake from his own bestselling novel, Dances With Wolves depicts the journey of a lone soldier (Costner) assigned to a wayward Western outpost during the Civil War. Aja Romano, Vox, 29 June 2024 On a stormy night in the mountains of Greece, a pair of wayward young people abandon their newborn child. Jill Goldsmith, Deadline, 28 June 2024 Just make sure nobody steps on a wayward ruffle on the dance floor! Conçetta Ciarlo, Vogue, 27 June 2024 The wayward cat was reunited with its family later that day, rangers said. Don Sweeney, Sacramento Bee, 24 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for wayward 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wayward.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near wayward

Cite this Entry

“Wayward.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wayward. Accessed 12 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


way·​ward ˈwā-wərd How to pronounce wayward (audio)
: tending to do as one pleases : disobedient
wayward children
: not following a rule or regular course of action
waywardly adverb
waywardness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on wayward

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