as in rebellious
given to resisting authority or another's control unruly pupils were given detention as a matter of course

Synonyms & Similar Words


Antonyms & Near Antonyms


Synonym Chooser

How does the adjective unruly differ from other similar words?

Some common synonyms of unruly are headstrong, intractable, recalcitrant, refractory, ungovernable, and willful. While all these words 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

When would headstrong be a good substitute for unruly?

While the synonyms headstrong and unruly are close in meaning, headstrong suggests self-will impatient of restraint, advice, or suggestion.

a headstrong young cavalry officer

Where would intractable be a reasonable alternative to unruly?

The meanings of intractable and unruly largely overlap; however, intractable suggests stubborn resistance to guidance or control.

intractable opponents of the hazardous-waste dump

When can recalcitrant be used instead of unruly?

While in some cases nearly identical to unruly, recalcitrant suggests determined resistance to or defiance of authority.

acts of sabotage by a recalcitrant populace

In what contexts can refractory take the place of unruly?

The words refractory and unruly are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, refractory stresses resistance to attempts to manage or to mold.

special schools for refractory children

When is it sensible to use ungovernable instead of unruly?

The words ungovernable and unruly can be used in similar contexts, but 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

When is willful a more appropriate choice than unruly?

In some situations, the words willful and unruly are roughly equivalent. However, willful implies an obstinate determination to have one's own way.

a willful disregard for the rights of others

Thesaurus Entries Near unruly

Cite this Entry

“Unruly.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/unruly. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

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