Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Difficult or impossible to discipline, control, or rule.
  • adjective Difficult to keep in place or in order.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Not according to rule; irregularly.
  • Disposed to resist rule or lawful restraint, or to violate laws laid down; lawless; turbulent; ungovernable; refractory; disorderly; tumultuous: as, an unruly child.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Not submissive to rule; disregarding restraint; disposed to violate; turbulent; ungovernable; refractory

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective wild; uncontrolled

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective of persons
  • adjective noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline
  • adjective unwilling to submit to authority

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English unreuli : un-, not; see un– + reuli, easy to govern (from reule, rule; see rule).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English unruly ("unquiet, restless"), interpreted as un- + rule + -ly (compare Middle English ruly, reuli ("subject to a religious rule, regular")), but also representing a modified continuation of earlier Middle English unrouly, unroly ("unquiet, restless"), equivalent to un- +‎ roolie. The latter is perhaps from or influenced by an Old Norse word related to Danish urolig ("restless"), Swedish orolig ("restless"), Icelandic óróleg ("agitated"). Compare also Middle English unroo, unro ("unrest"). More at roo.

Examples

  • Principal Hector Espinoza has taken the unusual step of canceling the final seven games of the Cougars season after the team had engaged in what he called unruly behavior during competition.

    Fore, right!

  • It acts as a kind of palimpsest over which the literary writer might inscribe his/her own variations on "criminal" behavior and its sources in unruly human impulses.

    February 2010

  • It acts as a kind of palimpsest over which the literary writer might inscribe his/her own variations on "criminal" behavior and its sources in unruly human impulses.

    Genre Fiction

  • She looked at his hands, the backs of which were covered in unruly black hair.

    Shortcomings of the Immediate World

  • It acts as a kind of palimpsest over which the literary writer might inscribe his/her own variations on "criminal" behavior and its sources in unruly human impulses.

    What's Going On?

  • It acts as a kind of palimpsest over which the literary writer might inscribe his/her own variations on "criminal" behavior and its sources in unruly human impulses.

    Comedy in Literature

  • It reaches up the poles and strives in unruly tufts down where the trees harbor their gloom.

    Rainy Season « Unknowing

  • Nip off the leaves that are faded, prune in unruly shoots, see if any need re-potting.

    Gardening by Myself

  • As soon as practicable he called the unruly body to order, beat upon the rude desk to enforce attention, and, in the lull that succeeded, briefly defined the purpose of the meeting, ending with introducing the speaker and craving for her their respectful attention.

    The Woman's Advocate, Vol. I, No. III.

  • As soon as practicable he called the unruly body to order, beat upon the rude desk to enforce attention, and, in the lull that succeeded, briefly defined the purpose of the meeting, ending with introducing the speaker and craving for her their respectful attention.

    Under Ban--A Sketch.

Comments

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  • Is there such a word as ruly? It seems there is!

    August 5, 2007