Definition of restive in English:



  • 1(of a person) unable to remain still, silent, or submissive, especially because of boredom or dissatisfaction.

    ‘the crowd had been waiting for hours and many were becoming restive’
    ‘he reiterated his determination to hold the restive republics together’
    • ‘Unions are growing restive, demanding a bigger slice of the pie - which could spark disruptive strikes if they don't get it.’
    • ‘The Filipinos were restive under the Spanish, and this long period was marked by numerous uprisings.’
    • ‘The country's social needs - in education and health care especially - are rising because of a growing population and an increasingly restive one.’
    • ‘Curators have always had to steer (in a timely fashion) between the demands of the general audience and those of restive academics.’
    • ‘Here is an impoverished country with a restive population demanding improvements to their lives.’
    • ‘Under pressure from medical organizations and restive nonsmokers, national governments around Europe are finally getting serious about tackling tobacco.’
    • ‘Such resentful people easily become restive; should a promising opportunity to throw off the oppressor's dominion present itself, they may seize it.’
    • ‘Consumers have become increasingly restive about the absence of any legislative guarantee that anything of value will be returned to society as reimbursement for the monopoly rights they have ceded.’
    • ‘Discontented with the lack of political rights, government corruption, and economic hardship, the country became increasingly restive during the 1980s, erupting into violent ethnic confrontations in 1992.’
    • ‘Their people cannot be kept entirely ignorant of this situation, and become restive.’
    • ‘During the trip, they had grown restive, quarrelsome, and hungry.’
    • ‘A deep silence settled upon his chest, his eyes dilated, his breathing became sporadic and restive.’
    • ‘While some of its specifics are a problem, the overall argument provides a coherent, long-sighted perspective on this most restive period in the history of the stage.’
    • ‘In the right frame of mind any crucial five minutes could amuse the most restive psyche, despite which fact you feel certain that you could easily destroy a universe of time.’
    • ‘No, the workers were not restive, nor were pickets lining up outside.’
    • ‘One key to the carmaker's success over the last five years has been its ability to keep its traditionally restive labor unions at bay with near double-digit annual pay raises and other concessions.’
    • ‘A restive population is demanding the birth of some new dispensation to take charge and solve our problems.’
    • ‘All of this has the capacity to further inflame already restive populations in the region.’
    • ‘Raphael heard Charmian's restive breathing, and a tear slid down his nose onto the furs he rested his head on.’
    restless, fidgety, edgy, on edge, tense, uneasy, ill at ease, worked up, nervous, agitated, anxious, on tenterhooks, keyed up, apprehensive, unquiet, impatient
    unruly, disorderly, out of control, uncontrollable, unmanageable, ungovernable, unbiddable, disobedient, defiant, up in arms, wilful, recalcitrant, refractory, insubordinate, disaffected, dissentious, riotous
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (of a horse) stubbornly standing still or moving backwards or sideways; refusing to advance.
      ‘both their horses became restive at once’
      • ‘A smaller and lighter horse, but restive and fiery, was brought to Legolas.’
      • ‘The horses were now more restive than ever, and Johann was trying to hold them in, while excitedly imploring me not to do anything so foolish.’
      • ‘It was a false scent, but ahead of him the horses grew restive, jostling and nipping, and the grey fretted against his hand.’
      • ‘The hyarmi, five in all, caressed the necks of their restive mounts, calming them.’


Late 16th century: from Old French restif, -ive, from Latin restare ‘remain’. The original sense, ‘inclined to remain still’, has undergone a reversal; the association with the refractory movements of a horse gave rise to the current sense ‘restless’.