I'm looking ideally for a word to describe someone who does something even when they're told not to. Like, if they're told not to do something like a dare, or just to not go and do such-and-such, they will do it. In fact, it will only make them more determined that they can do it.


She was described as ___ because she was told to not go to the party, but did it anyways.

She was called ___ since her father told her to not do any stupid dares but she didn't listen to him.

He has a tendency to be ___ - he likes to prove he can do it, despite others telling him he can't.

Thanks for your answers!

  • With a single-word-request you should include a sample sentence with a space where the supplied word would fit, so that people have some context for their choices. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 5:39
  • You should edit that into the question as comments can get deleted or moved. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 5:54
  • Guys...I am looking at 5 answers right now, and only 1 upvote plus mine. Seems to me it would be a courtesy to at least do an uptick on the question. If it is worth answering, it is worth upvoting. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 19:43
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    High-reputation member commenting on EL&U?
    – David
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 22:02
  • @David OMG, Is that what has happened to me? Like old age it seems to have crept up... But yes..I think it would be common courtesy to up-tick a question that was worthy of the time and effort of an answer. Should be a site policy. I am happy to see that since I posted that comment the Q has been appropriately up-voted. Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 22:05

11 Answers 11


I have always used contrary:

2 : being not in conformity with what is usual or expected
// actions contrary to company policy
// contrary evidence
4 : temperamentally unwilling to accept control or advice


She was described as contrary because she was told to not go to the party, but did it anyways.

She was called contrary since her father told her to not do any stupid dares but she didn't listen to him.

He has a tendency to be contrary—he likes to prove he can do it, despite others telling him he can't.


If it is a child, naughty, a naughty child. If it is a teenager, rebellious, so a rebel. If it is a work colleague, awkward or contrary . If it is political, dissent, so dissenter. However, I am not sure if this is what your looking for. A person who always does as requested could be said to be compliant so the opposite would be disobedient.

disobedient; adjective: refusing to do what someone in authority tells you to do:

naughty adjective When children are naughty, or their behaviour is naughty, they behave badly or do not do what they are told to do:

rebellious If someone is rebellious, they are difficult to control and do not behave in the way that is expected:

awkward adjective (NOT HELPFUL) mainly uk intentionally not helpful:

contrary adjective (NOT REASONABLE) A contrary person wants to disagree with and annoy other people:

dissent noun a strong difference of opinion on a particular subject, especially about an official suggestion or plan or a popular belief:

ALL Referenced from the Cambridge English Dictionary

  • An often workable solution is to reuse the predicate of the dependent clause.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 7:15
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    half those words do not work here.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 19:31
  • @the examples don't work either if you take time to read them. How could anyone be labelled for one act of defiance. She was called in this context is wrong., and the third sentence could apply to Eisenstein as equally as Ronnie Rebel.
    – Brad
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 1:50
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    Contrary describes it well. It being the tendency to do ‘the exact opposite of what one is being asked to do’.
    – Jelila
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 6:28

I would say either "defiant" or "recalcitrant" might be words worth considering. I think "defiant" is a better word for what you've described.

marked by resistance or bold opposition, as to authority; challenging
Collins Dictionary

full of or showing a disposition to challenge, resist, or fight
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In other dictionaries "defiant" is defined as showing or having "defiance".

1 : the act or an instance of defying : challenge jailed for defiance of a court order
2 : disposition to resist : willingness to contend or fight dealing with a child's defiance
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

"Recalcitrant" or many other words may fit also.

1.resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant:
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

But I think "defiant" is a better fit for someone who goes against what they are supposed to or instructed to do just because it's in their nature to do the opposite. They "defy" the instructions or advice given to them, they fight against or oppose them. "Recalcitrant", although also able to mean "defiant", may just mean "stubborn" or difficult to handle.

Also, "defiant" is easily a better word than "recalcitrant" in your last example:

He has a tendency to be ______ --he likes to prove he can do it, despite others telling him he can't.

  • I answered with recalcitrant because I didn't realize you had it first, I believe. I apologize.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 21:31
  • Sneaking out to a party is not boldly showing, quite the opposite (the example leaves the modus for us to guess). Doing a dare has no resistance to overcome, except figuratively.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 21:37
  • @vectory "Doing a dare has no resistance to overcome, except figuratively". No, the defiance is toward her father or his instructions not to do any stupid dares, not defiance to the dare itself. The same goes for going to the party, the defiance is toward being told not to go, not actually going to the party.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 12:20
  • There is no difference, if inhibition is part of a dare, and if the father's intention is supposed to create a mental barrier (inhibition), that can be broken. This is highly figurative, isn't it? The parental order is a secondary inhibition if the dare itself is repulsive enough, so limiting the criticizm to defiance of the order is hypocritical. The partying is different, in that the party is attractive, not repulsive, yet similar to the dare's success ("He likes to prove he can do it"). I can only guess that defiance in legal terms designated the breaking of a promise or expectation ...
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 13:48
  • ... on grounds of which the subject had been let go to fulfill the order. In a familiar environment this is rather called a disappointment but only if the forbidden act has actual negative consequences. If the court grounds the culprit for defiance of an order, the negative consequence is the grounding itself; They might say "told you so", but it's circular reasoning unless based on tangible negative consequences. Failing a dare, breaking a bone for example. I'm worried about adding insult to injury, on the one hand, and loosing faith on the other.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 13:57

I would describe her as recalcitrant. From Merriam-Webster:



  1. obstinately defiant of authority or restraint
  2. a : difficult to manage or operate
    b : not responsive to treatment

    this subject is recalcitrant both to observation and to experiment
    — G. G. Simpson



Which means ‘having a mind of her own’, and not ‘doing what she’s told.

Willful literally means ‘full of will’ - having a strong will, self-determining.

It’s described as ‘a bad thing’ in this dictionary link but it isn’t necessarily.

If you wanted the child to practise the violin, her being ‘willful about practising’ wouldn’t be bad. It’s just where you’re trying to get them to eat their rice-pudding, and they won’t, that willful gets a bad name. Imho.


‘willfull’ works in all three of your examples.


For 2 and 3, you can use stubborn, which means persisting in doing something even though you've been told not to, or has been ineffective in the past.



  1. disapproving A stubborn person is determined to do what he or she wants and refuses to do anything else:

They have huge arguments because they're both so stubborn.

  1. Things that are stubborn are difficult to move, change, or deal with:

He was famed for his stubborn resistance and his refusal to accept defeat.

Stubborn stains can be removed using a small amount of detergent.


In a work context, the person would be said to be insubordinate, which has a definition of "disobedient to authority" according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

An example of its use from that site is "The investigation focused on what the agency deemed to be unprofessional, insubordinate and profane emails and chat messages to her colleagues, including several in Oregon City."


A contrarian, perhaps? Do as you please. You’re going to anyway!

From Wiktionary:

A person who likes or tends to express a contradicting viewpoint, especially one who denounces the majority persuasion.


pigheaded (adj.)

Willfully or perversely unyielding : obstinate

He was too pigheaded to listen to my suggestion.

the kind of pigheaded person who seems to believe that facts only confuse an issue


Having a head like that of a pig. Chiefly figurative: stupidly obstinate, perverse, or set in one's ways.

You may remember that the skipper was a pig-headed fellow who ignored the warning of an observant old salt who had noticed that there was no moon about that night.
Dominic Lewis; A London Farrago (1922)


For a noun, you could describe the person as a line-stepper, indicating someone who ignores established boundaries to do something thy are not supposed to - they are one who figuratively steps "over the line". The phrase is often seen as "habitual line-stepper", describing a person who defies external limitations with regularity. It carries a connotation of small, rather than serious infractions.


An often workable solution is to reuse the predicate of the dependent clause. So I'd look for adjectives reflecting not listening. In fact not listening is an adverbial phrase, so what more could one want?

disobedient is thought to be equal to dis- + audio. That is however not recognizable anymore. (There's also reason to believe the word had other connotations of not belonging, which was requested to be edited out).

A more naive variant would be deaf, "unable to hear", in certain cases tone deaf "ignorant of the implications; insensitive*. This is rather offensive. stupor has a sense of simple, which is likewise reflected in idiotic, and might go along with ego-ism (caring only about ones own opinion and feelings). That does not work well in the bigger picture in which peers are the motivation. Neither do "naughty", "rebellious", etc fit there. I'd avoid going with a emotionally loaded thickheaded, stubborn, too.

Less emotionally loaded would be



which express the lack of perception metaphorically.

There's also



Overall the question is one of Psychology and Socio-Linguistic. Subsuming that under a lay man's understanding by the proxy of a fictive objective judge ("she was called ..." by whom?) is effectively yielding subjective answers from each one's individual perspective. In that sense I'd assume, she was called "pretty bad-ass" by her friends.

last but not least, more formal variants of stubborn would be



  1. Stubbornly adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course, usually with implied unreasonableness; persistent.

    From this consideration it is that we have derived the custom, in times of war, to punish […] those who are obstinate to defend a place that by the rules of war is not tenable

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    I'm a little confused by your divergence into German. Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 16:20
  • @marcellothearcane can you ignore it? It is supposed to trace my train of thought. I am not a native speaker. It is suboptimal, I'm aware. distracting it is, but not really confusing if the senses match 1:1. I think the German translation fits even better due to the sense of not belonging, which is hard to translate, unless disobedient paralleled this, too. That confuses me! However, gehören "belong" is not lexicalized together with hören, so the notion confuses everyone. However, it can inform a choice for irresponsible, if that somehow related to responsive and listening.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 21:52
  • 2
    The train of thought you took to arrive at the answer is, in this case, not at all relevant to the answer, and just makes the answer more confusing to read. I'd suggest editing it out of the answer. Also, you don't actually support your suggested alternatives by, for instance, citing the definitions of those suggested alternatives and explaining/showing how the fit if necessary; doing so would improve the answer.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 2:38
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    The reasons for the downvotes are likely to be that this answer is not useful (see the tooltip on the vote-down arrow). You have gone for adjectives reflecting "not listening", apparently, and then suggested disregardful (is that really a word?), ignorant (which more commonly means "not knowing") and irresponsible (which doesn't have much to do with listening, but answering for one's actions). The reason you gave those words is via German, which is irrelevant here. I think you would be well advised to base your answers on the English meaning of words and if that means going via ...
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 11:33
  • 2
    ... Latin instead of German, so be it. Many English words can be derived from German; many English words come more closely from Latin. Either is fine, but the result must actually be English.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 11:34

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