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  1. impatient of control, restraint, or delay, as persons; restless; uneasy.
  2. refractory; stubborn.
  3. refusing to go forward; balky: a restive horse.

Origin of restive

1375–1425; rest2 + -ive; replacing late Middle English restif stationary, balking < Old French: inert
Related formsres·tive·ly, adverbres·tive·ness, noun
Can be confusedrestful restive


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1. nervous, unquiet. 2. recalcitrant, disobedient, obstinate.


1. patient, quiet. 2. obedient, tractable.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for restiveness


  1. restless, nervous, or uneasy
  2. impatient of control or authority
Derived Formsrestively, adverbrestiveness, noun

Word Origin

C16: from Old French restif balky, from rester to remain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for restiveness



early 15c., restyffe "not moving forward," from Middle French restif "motionless, brought to a standstill" (Modern French rétif), from rester "to remain" (see rest (n.2)). Sense of "unmanageable" (1680s) evolved via notion of a horse refusing to go forward.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper