will·​ful | \ ˈwil-fəl How to pronounce willful (audio) \
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 How to pronounce willfully (audio) \ 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

Mark Rogers, 59, was arraigned Wednesday on charges including one count of willful cruelty to an elder, three counts of theft and 10 counts of failing to have a business tax certificate. Lyndsay Winkley, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Toxic gas, rodents and bed bugs: Independent living facility operator charged with elder abuse," 12 Sep. 2019 Gervais smartly explains this willful failure to distinguish actual malevolence: Everyone that’s being fired and publicly embarrassed about a misdemeanor and being called a Nazi — there are real Nazis who are getting away with it. Kyle Smith, National Review, "‘Don’t Apologize’: Ricky Gervais Takes On Verbal Terrorism," 16 Aug. 2019 He was charged on a suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with a vessel, willful harm or injury to a child, and operating a boat while under the influence, and has been released on $1 million bail. Joelle Goldstein, PEOPLE.com, "Tycoon Arrested After Both His Sons Are Thrown Off His Boat, Tragically Killing His 11-Year-Old," 16 Sep. 2019 This Week In Heat Vision breakdown Battle lines have been drawn on social media, and by way of willful ignorance on the parts of adults online behaving like children, Sony has been made the bad guy for refusing to give up its asset. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "How 'Spider-Man' Divorce Shows Ugly Side of Fandom," 22 Aug. 2019 Pan, the daemon of Lyra Belacqua (Logan star Dafne Keen) — a willful orphan girl living at Jordan College in this alternate world — will be voiced by the Kit Connor, who played a younger version of Elton John in this year’s movie musical Rocketman. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Meet the daemons: HBO's His Dark Materials reveals voice cast," 30 Aug. 2019 There are moments of loveliness in Tarantino’s portrait of his hometown, even as its willful rewriting of reality feels self-indulgent. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "Summer movies circa 2019: A season of random blips and nostalgia trips," 29 Aug. 2019 There is also, in these young stars, a willful disavowal of everything that came before. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, "The Loneliest Generation Embraces Billie Eilish," 23 Aug. 2019 Vita & Virginia, debuting in theaters tomorrow, tells the story of the affair between the reedy British novelist Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and Lady Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton), an eccentric and willful aristocrat. Vogue, "Inspired by Vita & Virginia, 5 Takes on English Country Style," 22 Aug. 2019

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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Last Updated

14 Oct 2019

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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 How to pronounce wilful (audio) \

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

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