[ noun, adjective reb-uhl; verb ri-bel ]
/ noun, adjective ˈrɛb əl; verb rɪˈbɛl /
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a person who refuses allegiance to, resists, or rises in arms against the government or ruler of his or her country.
a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition.


rebellious; defiant.
of or relating to rebels.

verb (used without object), re·bel, re·belled, re·bel·ling.



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Origin of rebel

1250–1300; (adj.) Middle English <Old French rebelle<Latin rebellis renewing a war, equivalent to re-re- + bell(um) war + -is adj. suffix; (v.) Middle English rebellen (<Old French rebeller) <Latin rebellāre; (noun) Middle English rebel, derivative of the adj.


reb·el·like, adjectivenon·reb·el, noun, adjectivepro·reb·el, adjectivesem·i·reb·el, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does rebel mean?

A rebel is a person who resists or defies rules or norms or rises up against the powers that be.

In its more serious sense, a rebel is a revolutionary trying to overthrow a government. More generally, it means someone who breaks the rules, resists authority, or otherwise challenges the status quo by doing things in a nontraditional way, such as in fashion and other arts. As a noun, rebel is pronounced “REB-uhl.”

Rebel is also a verb meaning to resist or rise up against authority or tradition. As a verb, rebel is pronounced “ri-BELL.”

Example: Danielle refused to wear her uniform to school, fighting with the principle and urging the other girls to rebel against the policy as she did.

Where does rebel come from?

The first records of rebel come from around the 1300s. It is derived from the Latin bell(um), which means “war” and is also the root of war-related words like antebellum, belligerent, and bellicose.

To rebel is to make war against something you disagree with or refuse to conform to. In its most traditional sense, rebel literally means to wage war against a government or other form of rule in order to overthrow it. When multiple people participate in this kind of act, it is called a rebellion. In the American Civil War, the members of the Confederacy who attempted to secede from the Union are called Rebels. In the Star Wars series, the revolutionaries trying to bring down the Empire are known as the Rebel Alliance. 

More generally, a rebel is anyone who challenges the established rules or the way things are. Rebels reject the status quo and instead play by their own rules, regardless of society’s restrictions or expectations. Because rebels are usually (by definition) taking on those who are more powerful, they are often seen as underdogs. They are also often seen as outsiders.

Teenagers who push against the boundaries set by their parents are often described as rebellious (the adjective form of rebel). The 1955 movie Rebel Without a Cause helped to romanticize and popularize the character of the angsty teen rebel, played in the movie by James Dean.

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How is rebel  used in real life?

Rebel is commonly used to refer to an actual revolutionary trying to overthrow a government. It is also commonly used to refer to anyone intentionally breaking rules that they disagree with. Such rebels are often seen as cool and are usually portrayed that way in popular culture.



Try using rebel!

Is rebel used correctly in the following sentence?

He was praised as a rebel for his unquestioning acceptance of the rules.

How to use rebel in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rebel


verb (rɪˈbɛl) -bels, -belling or -belled (intr often foll by against)

to resist or rise up against a government or other authority, esp by force of arms
to dissent from an accepted moral code or convention of behaviour, dress, etc
to show repugnance (towards)

noun (ˈrɛbəl)

  1. a person who rebels
  2. (as modifier)a rebel soldier; a rebel leader
a person who dissents from some accepted moral code or convention of behaviour, dress, etc

Derived forms of rebel

rebeldom, noun

Word Origin for rebel

C13: from Old French rebelle, from Latin rebellis insurgent, from re- + bellum war
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