- The definition of unruly is someone or something that is out of control or hard to manage.
A group of pre-schoolers who are running around and being very wild are an example of students who would be described as unruly.
- Difficult or impossible to discipline, control, or rule: The substitute teacher faced unruly students in the classroom.
- Difficult to keep in place or in order: tried to comb his unruly hair; trimmed back the unruly bushes.
Origin of unrulyMiddle English unreuli : un-, not; see un–1 + reuli, easy to govern (from reule, rule; see rule).
(comparative unrulier, superlative unruliest)
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 órólegur (“agitated”). Compare also Middle English unroo, unro (“unrest”). More at roo.