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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 unruly
  • Now researchers have started using satellites to try to identify and track these unruly waves.
  • Pardon my unruly critical thought processes, but in my experience only ideas that can survive criticism and refinement are useful.
  • Creating a colorful outdoor living room from an unruly yard can seem intimidating.
  • Determined to bring an unruly universe to order, he scrubbed and plucked, mowed and tidied.
  • Party bosses may try to play the stern father here, but their unruly charges defy parental controls.
  • But some look way too unruly to bring home to dinner.
  • So they'd been there maybe an hour before, and did know that the crowd was large and unruly.
  • Unite unruly stacks by showcasing a collection of objects of similar shape and color.
  • Pasha the camel had at first been truculent and unruly.
  • Now that he is healthy he has started displaying this unruly behavior.
British Dictionary definitions for unruly


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 unruly

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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