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

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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

Princess Haya’s escape was brought to light, ironically, by her husband, a poet who penned a few lines to lash out at his wayward bride – one of six and the most high-profile. Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News, "Dubai ruler's wife, Princess Haya, goes into hiding in UK and hires divorce lawyer: report," 5 July 2019 Checking in atop some slides earns discounts on food, beverage and retail items; the more a person rides, the greater the reward. Adults can track their children or wayward friends via the wristbands. Dewayne Bevil, orlandosentinel.com, "Margaritaville’s new water park makes a splash with high-tech innovations," 27 June 2019 The clash could have been especially awkward since Wilson would have been in charge of investigating wayward police officers that ultimately could have been charged by Mosby’s prosecutors. Jessica Anderson, baltimoresun.com, "Critic who lost out on police job after Mosby clash will remain with the attorney general's office," 4 June 2019 These abnormalities were not due to his primary problem, but instead a complication of it, one that had led me down a wayward diagnostic path. Julia Michie Bruckner, Discover Magazine, "Is a Teen's Pain Just Drama, or Something Worse?," 12 Mar. 2019 This is mostly so the instruments are shielded from wayward cosmic rays, which can also cause nuclei recoils. Quanta Magazine, "Why the Best Place to Find Dark Matter May Be in a Rock," 7 Jan. 2019 The wayward chunk of ice also swept away gold mining equipment, forcing a helicopter rescue for three miners who unsuccessfully tried saving it. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Crazy’ and ‘scary’: Dramatic ocean warming off Alaska raises concerns for hunters and wildlife," 26 June 2019 Xi wants to remind the U.S. that China is vital for applying pressure on Kim Jong-un’s wayward regime. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "CEO Daily: From Beijing to Osaka, via Pyongyang," 22 June 2019 That Griffin was able to spin so much gold from the wayward Lakers is a testament to his deal-making acumen. Jeff Duncan, nola.com, "With Zion at center stage, David Griffin as choreographer, Pelicans fans are ready to dance," 21 June 2019

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.

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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

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Statistics for wayward

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for wayward

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

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More Definitions for wayward



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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on wayward

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for wayward

Spanish Central: Translation of wayward

Nglish: Translation of wayward for Spanish Speakers

Comments on wayward

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characterized by aphorism

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