See more synonyms for wanton 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?
  3. without regard for what is right, just, humane, etc.; careless; reckless: a wanton attacker of religious convictions.
  4. sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd: wanton behavior.
  5. extravagantly or excessively luxurious, as a person, manner of living, or style.
  6. luxuriant, as vegetation.
  7. Archaic.
    1. sportive or frolicsome, as children or young animals.
    2. 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

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
Related formswan·ton·ly, adverbwan·ton·ness, nounun·wan·ton, adjective
Can be confusedwanton won ton

Synonyms for wanton

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Antonyms for wanton

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for wantonly

Contemporary Examples of wantonly

  • Now his people were wantonly punished for resisting the expulsion; for seeking to reverse it.

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    Old Problems and New Realities

    Ahmed Moor

    November 22, 2012

Historical Examples of wantonly

British Dictionary definitions for wantonly


  1. dissolute, licentious, or immoral
  2. without motive, provocation, or justificationwanton destruction
  3. maliciously and unnecessarily cruel or destructive
  4. unrestrainedwanton spending
  5. archaic, or poetic playful or capricious
  6. 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
Derived Formswantonly, adverbwantonness, noun

Word Origin for 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
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 wantonly



"one who is ill-behaved," especially (but not originally) "lascivious, lewd person," c.1400, from wanton (adj.).



1580s, from wanton (n.). Related: Wantoned; wantoning.



c.1300, wan-towen, "resistant to control; willful," from Middle English privative prefix wan- "wanting, lacking" (from Old English wan "wanting;" see wane) + togen, past participle of teon "to train, discipline;" literally "to pull, draw," from Proto-Germanic *teuhan (cf. Old High German ziohan "to pull;" see tug). The basic notion perhaps is "ill-bred, poorly brought up;" cf. German ungezogen "ill-bred, rude, haughty," literally "unpulled."

As Flies to wanton Boyes are we to th' Gods, They kill vs for their sport. [Shakespeare, "Lear," 1605]

Especially of sexual indulgence from late 14c. The only English survival of a once-common Germanic negating prefix still active in Dutch (cf. wanbestuur "misgovernment," wanluid "discordant sound"), German (wahn-), etc. Related: Wantonly; wantonness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper