- 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 (â€œunquiet, restlessâ€), interpreted as un- + rule + -ly (compare Middle English ruly, reuli (â€œsubject to a religious rule, regularâ€)), but also representing a modified continuation of earlier Middle English unrouly, unroly (â€œunquiet, restlessâ€), equivalent to un- +â€Ž roolie. The latter is perhaps from or influenced by an Old Norse word related to Danish urolig (â€œrestlessâ€), Swedish orolig (â€œrestlessâ€), Icelandic Ã³rÃ³legur (â€œagitatedâ€). Compare also Middle English unroo, unro (â€œunrestâ€). More at roo.