adjective will·ful \ ˈwil-fəl \
variants: or wilful
|Updated on: 5 Aug 2018

Definition of willful

1 : obstinately and often perversely self-willed
  • a stubborn and willful child
2 : done deliberately : intentional
  • willful disobedience


play \ˈwil-fə-lē\ adverb



Examples of willful in a Sentence

  1. a stubborn and willful child

  2. He has shown a willful disregard for other people's feelings.

Recent Examples of willful from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'willful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of willful

13th century

in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Synonym Discussion of willful

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

WILLFUL Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of willful for English Language Learners

  • : refusing to change your ideas or opinions or to stop doing something

  • : done deliberately

WILLFUL Defined for Kids


adjective will·ful
variants: or wilful \ˈwil-fəl\

Definition of willful for Students

1 : stubborn 1
  • willful children
2 : intentional
  • willful disobedience


\-fə-lē\ adverb



Law Dictionary


adjective will·ful
variants: or wilful play \ˈwil-fəl\

legal Definition of willful

: not accidental : done deliberately or knowingly and often in conscious violation or disregard of the law, duty, or the rights of others
  • willful injury





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excessive admiration or flattery

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