I saw a headline today about the volcano near Manila in the Philippines.

Restive Philippine volcano prompts evacuation

MSN News 12th January 2020

I was not familiar with the word 'restive' and thought it meant 'dormant', but it means the opposite :

  1. Characterized by erratic or adverse behaviour arising from discontent, disquiet, etc.

Oxford English Dictionary - requires subscription or library card

1: stubbornly resisting control : BALKY

2: marked by impatience or uneasiness : FIDGETY

Merriam Webster

So, it has the meaning 'restless'.

Where is the -ive suffix from ? I cannot think of another similar word. How does that suffix give the word the same meaning as 'restless' ?

  • 1
    -ive invokes 'expressing tendency, connection with; disposition' and your M-W article [wrongly linked] has 'In its earliest use, restive meant "sluggish" or "inactive," though this sense is no longer in use. Another early sense was "stubborn, obstinate." Specifically, restive often referred to horses that refused to do as commanded. This general application to unruly horses may have influenced the development of the "fidgety, impatient" sense of restive.' Jan 12, 2020 at 17:29
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    In other words, the suffix doesn't come from anywhere. It's just a broken chunk of morphology left over from Latin and French words that were carved up for English consumption. There's a lot of that going around, but it's not meaningful. Jan 12, 2020 at 19:39
  • @EdwinAshworth Link adjusted, Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 12, 2020 at 20:26
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    – Hot Licks
    Jan 12, 2020 at 23:15
  • 1
    @HotLicks I am quite happy with the answer I received and with Professor Lawler's comment. Thank you.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 12, 2020 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


It is actually a peculiar sense of restive as explained below:

restive (adj.):

early 15c., restyffe "not moving forward," from Middle French restif "motionless, brought to a standstill" (Modern French rétif), from rester "to remain" (see rest (n.2)). Sense of "unmanageable" (1680s) evolved via notion of a horse refusing to go forward.


  • Yes. I is worth adding, bearing in mind previous discussion, that the problem is that we may think of the word ‘rest’ in a mistaken way. Latin adverbial prefix ‘re’ means ‘back’ and ‘sto’ means I stand. So re+sto = resto is I stand back or refuse. But it can also mean that I stand still (ie stay). In fact French ‘rester’ does not mean ‘rest’ but ‘stay’ in the sense of ‘remain’. The suffix ‘-ivus’ (French ‘-if’) is a standard way to turn a verb into and adjective. So in English: captive, combative, lucrative, festive, massive...
    – Tuffy
    Jan 13, 2020 at 0:52
  • @Tuffy For what it’s worth, the Latin sto could also be used for I stay, or at least my classes always glossed it as “stand, stay.” I have not nearly the knowledge of Latin to say how much/in what situations the Romans would use sto versus resto in this sense, though.
    – KRyan
    Jan 13, 2020 at 4:20
  • @KRyan Thank you for reminding me of that, fellow (in my case former) Latin teacher.and sending me back to my Lewis and Short dictionary. You are right that ‘sto’ means ‘stand’ (particularly in a military context (where standing is this sense was vital in legionary combat. For ‘rest’ in the English sense, Latin uses ‘quiesco’, from which we get ‘quiescent’ and ‘quiet’ and The ‘quietus’ which a ‘bare bodkin’ can make, says Hamlet in his famous speech.
    – Tuffy
    Jan 13, 2020 at 9:36

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