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 willful (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 Last week former Michigan governor Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful negligence for his role in the Flint water crisis. Willy Blackmore, Curbed, "Sure, Rick Snyder’s Been Charged — But Does Flint Finally Have Clean Water?," 20 Jan. 2021 Donald Trump is America's willful arsonist, the man who lit the match under the fabric of our constitutional republic. Star Tribune, "A quick impeachment and trial could banish Trump from office ever again," 7 Jan. 2021 Rather than shaming people for their misunderstanding—or even their willful indifference to the facts—Nan and her team are looking for alternatives. Eleanor Cummins, The New Republic, "Why We Can’t Comprehend 250,000 Covid Deaths," 19 Nov. 2020 The order doesn’t provide immunity from civil liability from gross negligence, reckless or willful misconduct that includes individuals rendering services under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Cole Lauterbach, Washington Examiner, "Arizona extends good samaritan legal immunity for frontline workers," 4 Jan. 2021 Historically, connection to witchcraft has always symbolized femme power and willful social revolution. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "There Is So Much Meaning To Sabrina’s New “Weird Sisters” Surprise," 31 Dec. 2020 In order to prove a civil-rights violation, the government would have needed to prove that Loehmann’s actions were unreasonable and willful, the report states. John Caniglia, cleveland, "Justice Department officially closes case involving Tamir Rice without bringing charges against police officers," 29 Dec. 2020 His willful, sometimes autocratic manner and gaunt good looks contributed to his magnetism. New York Times, "Pierre Cardin, Designer to the Famous and Merchant to the Masses, Dies at 98," 29 Dec. 2020 Here, faith that things will work out only creates a willful blindness to reality. Star Tribune, "REVIEW: 'Lord the One You Love Is Sick,' by Kasey Thornton," 24 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for willful

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for willful

Last Updated

25 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Willful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/willful. Accessed 25 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for willful


How to pronounce willful (audio)

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 willful (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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Comments on willful

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