unruly

unruly, ungovernable, intractable, refractory, recalcitrant, willful, headstrong are comparable when they mean not submissive to government or control.
Unruly stresses a lack of discipline or an incapacity for discipline; in addition it often connotes such qualities as turbulence, dis- orderliness, waywardness, or obstreperousness
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unruly children

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whatever my unruly tongue may say— J. R. Green

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the unruly passions— T. S. Eliot

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cleared the land, dug ditches and dammed unruly streams— Amer. Guide Series: Ariz.

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Ungovernable implies either an incapacity for or an escape from guidance or control. When applied directly or indirectly to persons, it usually suggests either no previous subjection to restrictions or a state of having thrown off previous restrictions
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the fiercest and most ungovernable part of the . . . population— Macaulay

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or the loss of all power to control oneself or to be controlled by others
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he fell into an ungovernable rage

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When used in reference to things, it usually suggests their incapacity for human direction or control
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that . . . ungovernable wonder the wind— Hawthorne

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genius was as valuable and as unpredictable, perhaps as ungovernable, as the waves of the seaBuck

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Intractable and refractory both imply resistance to all attempts to bring under one's control, management, or direction. When applied to persons, intractable suggests a disposition to resist guidance or control
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an intractable child

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an intractable temper

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his rough, intractable spirit— John Wesley

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a young man who resisted his mistress' wishes was an intractable young man indeed— Sackville-West

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When applied to things, it suggests a more or less marked resistance to working, manipulation, treatment, or management
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intractable soil

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an intractable metal

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Shakespeare was unable to impose this motive successfully upon the intractable material of the old play— T. S. Eliot

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Refractory, on the other hand, often implies active resistance indicated by manifest disobedience, open protest, or rebelliousness
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it becomes my duty to struggle against my refractory feelings— Burney

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there is no use in making the refractory child feel guilty; it is much more to the purpose to make him feel that he is missing pleasures which the others are enjoying— Russell

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or, when the reference is to an inanimate thing, a degree of intractability that offers especially great resistance or presents unusual difficulties
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bricks and other refractory substances are used to line furnaces

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cheerfulness is in ethics what fluorspar is in metallurgy. It is a flux absolutely necessary in dealing with refractory moral elements— Crothers

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Recalcitrant carries an even stronger implication of active and violent resistance or of obstinate rebellion; it usually suggests defiance of another's will, order, or authority
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his father became recalcitrant and cut off the supplies— Stevenson

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in Russia a minority of devoted Marxists maintain by sheer force such government as is possible in the teeth of an intensely recalcitrant peasantry— Shaw

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The term is less often applied to things than intractable and refractory, but there is some use when seemingly insuperable difficulties are implied
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he discovers poetry in the most unlikely places and wrings it out of the most recalcitrant material— Day Lewis

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Willful usually implies intractability because of an overweening desire or an obstinate determination to have one's own way and an unwillingness to be guided by those who are wise or experienced
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to willful men, the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters— Shak.

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we know we haven't finality, and so we are open and receptive, rather than willful—H. G. Wells

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Headstrong implies violent self-will that makes for refractoriness or recalcitrance
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the headstrong young ruler, who had taken his country out of its alliance . . . into a foolish neutrality— Shirer

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they are testy and headstrong through an excess of will and bias— Emerson

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Analogous words: *insubordinate, rebellious, contumacious: obstreperous, boisterous, strident (see VOCIFEROUS): *contrary, perverse, froward, wayward: fractious, *irritable, snappish, waspish
Antonyms: tractable, docile

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Unruly — Un*rul y, a. [Compar. {Unrulier}, superl. {Unruliest}.] [Pref. un not + rule. Cf. {Ruly}.] Not submissive to rule; disregarding restraint; disposed to violate; turbulent; ungovernable; refractory; as, an unruly boy; unruly boy; unruly conduct.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • unruly — I adjective chaotic, contrary, contumacious, disobedient, disorderly, effrenatus, ferox, fractious, froward, hard to control, headstrong, incorrigible, indocile, insubordinate, intractable, irrepressible, lawless, mutinous, obstinate,… …   Law dictionary

  • unruly — (adj.) c.1400, from UN (Cf. un ) (1) not + obsolete ruly amenable to rule, from RULE (Cf. rule) (n.) …   Etymology dictionary

  • unruly — [adj] disobedient assertive, bawdy, disorderly, drunken, forward, fractious, headstrong, heedless, impervious, impetuous, imprudent, impulsive, incorrigible, inexorable, insubordinate, intemperate, intractable, lawless, mean, mutinous,… …   New thesaurus

  • unruly — ► ADJECTIVE (unrulier, unruliest) ▪ disorderly and disruptive; difficult to control. DERIVATIVES unruliness noun. ORIGIN from archaic ruly «disciplined, orderly», from RULE(Cf. ↑rule) …   English terms dictionary

  • unruly — [unro͞o′lē] adj. unrulier, unruliest [ME unruely < un , not + reuly, orderly < reule,RULE] hard to control, restrain, or keep in order; disobedient, disorderly, etc. unruliness n …   English World dictionary

  • unruly — unruliness, n. /un rooh lee/, adj., unrulier, unruliest. not submissive or conforming to rule; ungovernable; turbulent; intractable; refractory; lawless: an unruly class; an unruly wilderness. [1350 1400; ME unruely, equiv. to un UN 1 + ruly,… …   Universalium

  • unruly — adjective (unrulier; est) Etymology: Middle English unreuly, from un + reuly disciplined, from reule rule Date: 15th century not readily ruled, disciplined, or managed < an unruly crowd > < a mane of unruly hair > • unruliness noun Synony …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • unruly — [[t]ʌnru͟ːli[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED If you describe people, especially children, as unruly, you mean that they behave badly and are difficult to control. It s not good enough just to blame the unruly children. ...unruly behaviour. Syn: uncontrollable …   English dictionary

  • unruly — UK [ʌnˈruːlɪ] / US [ʌnˈrulɪ] adjective Word forms unruly : adjective unruly comparative unrulier superlative unruliest very difficult to control unruly children She spent hours trying to tame her unruly hair …   English dictionary

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