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

The former Republican House Speakers know all about willful backbenchers, and Democratic Reps. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Speaker Ocasio-Cortez," 6 Mar. 2019 The political question is whether this is all for show, or are Democrats willful enough to use Senate rules to block the nomination from proceeding to a vote? The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Kavanaugh Histrionics," 4 Sep. 2018 Through ignorance, willful or otherwise, the message missed is that players were protesting racial inequality in the United States. Steve Rosenbloom, chicagotribune.com, "NFL owners got played for suckers by Donald Trump, and they did it to themselves," 5 June 2018 The movie gives no real sense of what made L3 so willful and independent. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Soul of Solo Is a Droid," 27 May 2018 Every parent struggles at some point with willful, misbehaving children. David Roberts, Vox, "Please don’t spank your kids," 3 July 2018 Having said all that, the case against Trump for willful failure to disclose is still not a complete slam-dunk. Sean Illing, Vox, "Did Rudy Giuliani just get Trump in legal trouble? I asked 11 legal experts.," 3 May 2018 Bowman still faces four counts of willful failure to file tax returns, a misdemeanor. Maxine Bernstein, OregonLive.com, "Man who cites opposition to abortion for not paying taxes wins Round 1 in court," 12 Apr. 2018 Bedwell and Hale were booked in the South Placer Jail on suspicion of child stealing, willful cruelty to a child, conspiracy to commit a crime and obstructing officers. Cathy Locke, sacbee, "Mother accused of abducting child during supervised visitation," 9 Feb. 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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Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

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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 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

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).


behavior toward others

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