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Unruly vs Ungovernable vs Intractable vs Refractory vs Recalcitrant vs Willful vs Headstrong

Unruly, ungovernableintractablerefractoryrecalcitrantwillfulheadstrong are comparable when they mean not submissive to government or control.

Unruly stresses a lack of discipline or an incapacity for discipline; in addition it often connotes such qualities as turbulence, disorderliness, waywardness, or obstreperousness.

Ungovernable implies either an incapacity for or an escape from guidance or control. When applied directly or indirectly to persons, it usually suggests either no previous subjection to restrictions or a state of having thrown off previous restrictions or the loss of all power to control oneself or to be controlled by others.

When used in reference to things, it usually suggests their incapacity for human direction or control.

Intractable and refractory both imply resistance to all attempts to bring under one’s control, management, or direction. When applied to persons, intractable suggests a disposition to resist guidance or control.

When applied to things, it suggests a more or less marked resistance to working, manipulation, treatment, or management.

Refractory , on the other hand, often implies active resistance indicated by manifest disobedience, open protest, or rebelliousness or, when the reference is to an inanimate thing, a degree of intractability that offers especially great resistance or presents unusual difficulties.

Recalcitrant carries an even stronger implication of active and violent resistance or of obstinate rebellion; it usually suggests defiance of another’s will, order, or authority.

The term is less often applied to things than intractable and refractory , but there is some use when seemingly insuperable difficulties are implied.

Willful usually implies intractability because of an overweening desire or an obstinate determination to have one’s own way and an unwillingness to be guided by those who are wise or experienced.

Headstrong implies violent self-will that makes for refractoriness or recalcitrance.