[ won-tn ]
See synonyms for: wantonwantonedwantoningwantonly on Thesaurus.com

  1. done, shown, used, etc., maliciously or unjustifiably: a wanton attack; wanton cruelty.

  2. deliberate and without motive or provocation; uncalled-for; headstrong; willful: Why jeopardize your career in such a wanton way?

  1. without regard for what is right, just, humane, etc.; careless; reckless: a wanton attacker of religious convictions.

  2. sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd: wanton behavior.

  3. extravagantly or excessively luxurious, as a person, manner of living, or style.

  4. luxuriant, as vegetation.

  5. Archaic.

    • sportive or frolicsome, as children or young animals.

    • having free play: wanton breezes; a wanton brook.

  1. a wanton or lascivious person, especially a woman.

verb (used without object)
  1. to behave in a wanton manner; become wanton.

verb (used with object)
  1. to squander, especially in pleasure (often followed by away): to wanton away one's inheritance.

Origin of wanton

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English wantowen, literally, “undisciplined, ill-reared,” Old English wan- “not” + togen, past participle of tēon “to discipline, rear,” cognate with German ziehen, Latin dūcere “to lead”; akin to tow1

Other words for wanton

Opposites for wanton

Other words from wanton

  • wan·ton·ly, adverb
  • wan·ton·ness, noun
  • un·wan·ton, adjective

Words that may be confused with wanton

Words Nearby wanton

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use wanton in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for wanton


/ (ˈwɒntən) /

  1. dissolute, licentious, or immoral

  2. without motive, provocation, or justification: wanton destruction

  1. maliciously and unnecessarily cruel or destructive

  2. unrestrained: wanton spending

  3. archaic, or poetic playful or capricious

  4. archaic (of vegetation, etc) luxuriant or superabundant

  1. a licentious person, esp a woman

  2. a playful or capricious person

  1. (intr) to behave in a wanton manner

  2. (tr) to squander or waste

Origin of wanton

C13 wantowen (in the obsolete sense: unmanageable, unruly): from wan- (prefix equivalent to un- 1; related to Old English wanian to wane) + -towen, from Old English togen brought up, from tēon to bring up

Derived forms of wanton

  • wantonly, adverb
  • wantonness, noun

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