Definition of restive in US English:



  • 1(of a person) unable to keep still or silent and becoming increasingly difficult to control, especially because of impatience, dissatisfaction, or boredom.

    ‘the crowd had been waiting for hours and many were becoming restive’
    ‘he reiterated his determination to hold the restive republics together’
    • ‘A deep silence settled upon his chest, his eyes dilated, his breathing became sporadic and restive.’
    • ‘A restive population is demanding the birth of some new dispensation to take charge and solve our problems.’
    • ‘The Filipinos were restive under the Spanish, and this long period was marked by numerous uprisings.’
    • ‘Curators have always had to steer (in a timely fashion) between the demands of the general audience and those of restive academics.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Here is an impoverished country with a restive population demanding improvements to their lives.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘No, the workers were not restive, nor were pickets lining up outside.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Unions are growing restive, demanding a bigger slice of the pie - which could spark disruptive strikes if they don't get it.’
    • ‘Such resentful people easily become restive; should a promising opportunity to throw off the oppressor's dominion present itself, they may seize it.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Their people cannot be kept entirely ignorant of this situation, and become restive.’
    • ‘The country's social needs - in education and health care especially - are rising because of a growing population and an increasingly restive one.’
    • ‘Under pressure from medical organizations and restive nonsmokers, national governments around Europe are finally getting serious about tackling tobacco.’
    • ‘During the trip, they had grown restive, quarrelsome, and hungry.’
    • ‘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.’
    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
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    1. 1.1 (of a horse) refusing to advance, stubbornly standing still or moving backward or sideways.
      ‘both their horses became restive at once’
      • ‘The hyarmi, five in all, caressed the necks of their restive mounts, calming them.’
      • ‘It was a false scent, but ahead of him the horses grew restive, jostling and nipping, and the grey fretted against his hand.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A smaller and lighter horse, but restive and fiery, was brought to Legolas.’


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’.