Settled down, in the context of someone is set in life where they are- happy with their job, their family, they have have a mortgage and a little dog and all that sort of thing.

Is there a word/two or three words, that means the opposite of this?

One that came to mind for me was wanderlust but this carries too strong a connotation of travel. People can be not settled down but still not so big on travelling- it might just be in their career or love life that they've yet to find equilibrium.

Conservative vs innovative perhaps is a better comparison? But thats saying because you're settled you can't be innovative. Many great scientists were i'm sure settled.

Maybe going more into reactive vs proactive? Though again there I think I may be putting too much of a negative spin on people who are settled. Maybe the people who are still bouncing around are doing so because of situations beyond their control (e.g. refugees).

Any clue about this dichotomy?

  • 4
    "restless" springs to mind Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 8:33
  • 1
    not (well-) settled is the phrase that correctly and unambiguously conveys the intended meaning in the context. Why take chances just for brevity?
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 10:07
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    I'd post an answer to this question, but I'm too footloose and fancy free. You can't tie me down. I haven't got a care in the world. In fact, I'm completely carefree.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 11:12
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    Errr, I'm not sure using "alternative lifestyle" as the opposite of "settled down" wouldn't be misunderstood, @PhilSweet Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 14:40
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    In transition might have some of the meaning you're looking for. Unsettled is the obvious opposite, and unresolved (as in "unresolved issues") might also be applicable. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 14:50

5 Answers 5


Footloose (Able to do as one pleases owing to a lack of responsibilities or commitments; now esp., free to relocate or travel without concern or constraints. OED)

and fancy free. (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fancy-free)

  • That has to be the answer, a great word.
    – asoundmove
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 21:08

Perhaps by focusing on the settled-down person's state of mind, you might find some good antonyms.

A settled-down person is

  • content

  • free of anxiety

  • untroubled and unperturbed
  • rooted
  • at ease and relaxed
  • comfortable, cosy, characterized by Gemütlichkeit

  • peaceful, tranquil

Antonyms for the above descriptors could include

  • discontented, restless

  • anxious, worried, preoccupied, nervous, agitated

  • troubled, perturbed

  • uprooted

  • ill at ease

  • uncomfortable, unsettled, out of place, anomic, unstable


It sounds like you are thinking of finding oneself.

find oneself: "to realize and accept one's real character; discover one's true vocation" —Collins English Dictionary

I had thought that this usage was fairly recent, dating perhaps to the early or mid twentieth century, but the OED attests to something very similar all the way back to 1642, with a very clearly modern take in the example quote from 1893:

find, v. II.9.e. refl. To discover and attain one's special place, power, or vocation. ... 1893 Academy 11. Mar. 222/1 It was as assistant to Bain that Minto found himself.

This usage can carry some pejorative connotations, particularly in the case of someone who was once "settled" but has decided to give that up and go "find him/herself":

Maybe he left to find himself. Maybe he left to look for a 21-year-old Baywatch kind of wife. Too many men are running away from their responsibilities because those responsibilities interfere with their insatiable searches for personal pleasure. I'm their Dad! Not their Babysitter! by Tim Herrera

but is also used more neutrally about (often, but not always, younger) people who are in the process of discovering or actively looking for their place in life:

"All girls and boys go through phases like Chloe's. At eighteen, she's still finding herself." One Flew Under the Cuckoo's Nest by Ami Amara

Michael Rosenberg is a wonderful father. It's as if in finding his children (he has two) unfolding before him at last he's finding himself. People Like Ourselves by Pamela Jooste

I found myself walking around asking why I was even living. I was broken and lost, not even sure where I was, but out of this emotional barrenness I knew I had to find me. And so, I took a journey to find myself and begin the process of healing all the broken places. Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself by Sarah Ferguson, Sarah (Duchess of York), from the letter to readers


I agree with the comments that state that "settled down" does not necessarily entail all the meaning you have ascribed. In the most general sense, "settled down" means you have a good deal of responsibility and are not free to follow all your whims without consulting other concerned parties, be they your spouse, employer, family, etc. Therefore, consider

Unfettered (M-W)

adj. not controlled or restricted, free, unrestrained


My first thoughts go to "up in the air", "undecided", "open". What you want seems to cover quite a wide range of possibilities. I even thought about "disarray", but that's a little too judgemental / negative for what you want, I believe.

From "open" you can move on to "an open book", "a blank page", "a story in the making"...

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