Willful means "deliberate" or "stubborn." A child who exhibits willful disobedience knows she is doing something wrong (even if she tries to convince you otherwise).

While being full of will, or determination, doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad thing, the word willful is negative in meaning. Use it when someone is behaving in a stubborn or uncooperative manner. To describe someone who possesses dedication or perseverance in a positive sense, consider determined, driven, or decisive — and that’s just the d's!

Definitions of willful
  1. adjective
    done by design
    willful disobedience”
    synonyms: wilful
    of your own free will or design; done by choice; not forced or compelled
  2. adjective
    habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition
    synonyms: froward, headstrong, self-willed, wilful
    not obeying or complying with commands of those in authority
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week