From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From Middle English unruly (unquiet, restless), equivalent to 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 Old Norse *úróligr, related to Danish urolig (restless), Swedish orolig (restless), Icelandic órólegur (agitated). Compare also Middle English unroo, unro (unrest). More at roo.


  • IPA(key): /ʌnˈɹuːli/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːli


unruly (comparative unrulier, superlative unruliest)

  1. Wild; uncontrolled.
    The police gathered to contain the unruly mob.
    • 1985, Morrissey & Johnny Marr (lyrics and music), “Barbarism Begins at Home”, in Meat Is Murder, performed by The Smiths:
      Unruly boys who will not grow up / Must be taken in hand / Unruly girls who will not settle down / They must be taken in hand
    • 2011 Allen Gregory, "Pilot" (season 1, episode 1):
      Richard DeLongpre: Are you okay, my boy angel?
      Allen Gregory DeLongpre: I have a broken heart. And undergarments filled with my own unruly waste.