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[uhn-roo-lee] /ʌnˈru li/
adjective, unrulier, unruliest.
not submissive or conforming to rule; ungovernable; turbulent; intractable; refractory; lawless:
an unruly class; an unruly wilderness.
Origin of unruly
1350-1400; Middle English unruely, equivalent to un- un-1 + ruly, ruely governable, controllable; see rule, -y1
Related forms
unruliness, noun
disobedient, unmanageable, uncontrollable, stubborn, disorderly, riotous. Unruly, intractable, recalcitrant, refractory describe persons or things that resist management or control. Unruly suggests persistently disorderly behavior or character in persons or things: an unruly child, peevish and willful; wild, unruly hair. Intractable suggests in persons a determined resistance to all attempts to guide or direct them, in things a refusal to respond to attempts to shape, improve, or modify them: an intractable social rebel; a seemingly intractable problem in logistics. recalcitrant and refractory imply not only a lack of submissiveness but also an open, often violent, rebellion against authority or direction. Recalcitrant, the stronger of the two terms, suggests a stubborn and absolute noncompliance: a recalcitrant person, openly contemptuous of all authority. Refractory implies active, mulish disobedience, but leaves open the possibility of eventual compliance: refractory students, resisting efforts to interest them in their studies. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for unruliness
Historical Examples
  • It has the tartness, the briskness, the unruliness of spring, and the aroma and intensity of summer.

    Locusts and Wild Honey John Burroughs
  • So did a child, threatened for his unruliness with the revelation of the man with two heads.

    The Children Alice Meynell
  • However, the guards are fully warned of the peril, and will ray every prisoner at the first sign of unruliness.

    Spacehounds of IPC Edward Elmer Smith
  • unruliness must have been tamed and regular attention secured.

    Outlines of Educational Doctrine John Frederick Herbart
  • A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under its influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived.

    Dubliners James Joyce
  • He had shut his eyes to the man's unruliness and his daughter's intervention to free him; but now he was without pity.

  • The unruliness of our nature can only be kept in order by continual acts of self-discipline.

    Our Lady Saint Mary J. G. H. Barry
  • For the first few days of our journey, we suffered greatly from the unruliness of the camels.

    Southern Arabia Theodore Bent
  • The same conditions which bring about irritability and unruliness on the part of the child accompany suicidal tendencies.

  • The most unreasonable things in the world become most reasonable, because of the unruliness of men.

    Pascal's Penses Blaise Pascal
British Dictionary definitions for unruliness


adjective -lier, -liest
disposed to disobedience or indiscipline
Derived Forms
unruliness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for unruliness



c.1400, from un- (1) "not" + obsolete ruly "amenable to rule." Related: Unruliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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