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 Synonyms: 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>.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.