will·​ful | \ˈwil-fəl \
variants: or wilful

Definition of willful 

1 : obstinately and often perversely self-willed a stubborn and willful child

2 : done deliberately : intentional willful disobedience

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Other Words from willful

willfully \ˈwil-​fə-​lē \ adverb
willfulness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of willful in a Sentence

a stubborn and willful child He has shown a willful disregard for other people's feelings.

Recent Examples on the Web

From Jamie's willful aunt to conniving pirate, as well as Scottish settlers intent on making a home in the new world and Native Americans, Claire and Jamie will cross paths with some very interesting people in the coming episodes. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Outlander Season 4: Meet the New Cast," 30 Oct. 2018 Nghia Hoang Pho of Ellicott City, Maryland, had earlier pleaded guilty to willful retention of national defense information. Fox News, "Ex-NSA worker sentenced for taking secret documents home," 25 Sep. 2018 The contract also lists grounds for being fired, which are laid out in state law: misconduct in office, immorality, insubordination, incompetence or willful neglect of duty. Donna St. George, Washington Post, "The Prince George’s schools chief said he was quitting. So why is he still there?," 5 July 2018 Emma-Jane Kurtz, 41, of Oxfordshire, was found guilty by the Oxford Crown Court of willful neglect. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Daughter jailed for leaving mother to die in her own feces," 28 Apr. 2018 That person, William Strampel, former dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, has since been charged with willful neglect of duty. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Michigan State is a cesspool of abuse and indifference appears bottomless," 24 Apr. 2018 Its willful distortion has led to the violation of our Tenth Amendment guaranteed right to limited government–which inevitably requires oppressive taxation. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "California Voters Keep Accidentally Joining George Wallace’s Zombie Political Party," 30 Mar. 2018 Whether this row deserves to be preserved is a question worth asking, but clearly the Historical Commission has not been effective at staving off willful neglect. Inga Saffron, Philly.com, "Philadelphia's preservation reform effort has lost its way | Inga Saffron," 29 Mar. 2018 With action on Kelly, each day that passes without consequence for other artists under similar clouds feels like either an endorsement or willful ignorance. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "Spotify's decision to stop promoting R. Kelly over unproven allegations calls several other artists into question," 10 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of willful

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for willful

Last Updated

25 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for willful

The first known use of willful was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for willful



English Language Learners Definition of willful

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

: done deliberately


variants: or wilful \ˈwil-​fəl \

Kids Definition of willful

1 : stubborn sense 1 willful children

2 : intentional willful disobedience

Other Words from willful

willfully \-​fə-​lē \ adverb
willfulness noun


variants: or wilful \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

Other Words from willful

willfully adverb
willfulness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on willful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with willful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for willful

Spanish Central: Translation of willful

Nglish: Translation of willful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of willful for Arabic Speakers

Comments on willful

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


a nest or breeding place

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