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Unobedient vs. Disobedient: What's the Difference?

By Janet White & Harlon Moss || Updated on May 28, 2024
"Unobedient" refers to someone who does not show obedience, while "disobedient" indicates active refusal or defiance against authority.

Key Differences

"Unobedient" describes a state of not being obedient. It implies a lack of obedience without necessarily suggesting active resistance. "Disobedient," on the other hand, conveys a stronger sense of intentional defiance or resistance to authority.
Unobedient behavior might be seen in situations where an individual simply doesn't follow instructions due to forgetfulness or neglect. Disobedient behavior is more deliberate, where the individual consciously decides to go against instructions.
Children who are unobedient might be inattentive or distracted, whereas disobedient children are often willfully rebellious. While unobedient might suggest a passive stance, disobedient suggests a more active stance against authority.

Comparison Chart

Usage Frequency

Rarely used
Commonly used


Passive lack of obedience
Active defiance or resistance


Unintentional or passive
Deliberate or intentional


Less negative
More negative

Common Contexts

Mild noncompliance
Strong-willed refusal

Unobedient and Disobedient Definitions


Lacking obedience.
The unobedient puppy wandered off during the walk.


Defying authority.
The disobedient teenager refused to do his chores.


Disregarding instructions due to neglect.
The unobedient child forgot to clean his room.


Demonstrating willful noncompliance.
His disobedient behavior got him into trouble.


Failing to comply without active resistance.
The unobedient employee did not follow the new guidelines.


Breaking rules on purpose.
The disobedient child sneaked out past curfew.


Not following commands passively.
The unobedient student missed the homework deadline.


Intentionally ignoring rules.
She was punished for being disobedient in school.


Unresponsive to authority.
Her unobedient nature often caused minor issues in class.


Actively resisting commands.
The disobedient dog refused to sit when told.


(obsolete) disobedient


Refusal or failure to obey.




Not obedient.


One who disobeys.


Neglecting or refusing to obey; omitting to do what is commanded, or doing what is prohibited; refractory; not observant of duty or rules prescribed by authority; - applied to persons and acts.
This disobedient spirit in the colonies.
Disobedient unto the word of the Lord.


Not yielding.
Medicines used unnecessarily contribute to shorten life, by sooner rendering peculiar parts of the system disobedient to stimuli.


Not obeying or complying with commands of those in authority;
Disobedient children


Unwilling to submit to authority;
Unruly teenagers


What does "disobedient" mean?

"Disobedient" means actively refusing to follow rules or commands.

Is "unobedient" commonly used?

No, "unobedient" is rarely used in modern English.

Does "disobedient" always mean breaking rules on purpose?

Yes, "disobedient" implies a deliberate choice to break rules.

What does "unobedient" mean?

"Unobedient" means lacking obedience, often passively failing to follow commands.

Is "disobedient" a stronger term than "unobedient"?

Yes, "disobedient" implies a more intentional and defiant stance against authority.

Can "unobedient" and "disobedient" be used interchangeably?

Not exactly, as "disobedient" suggests intentional defiance, whereas "unobedient" implies a passive lack of obedience.

Is "unobedient" considered correct English?

It is correct but not standard; "disobedient" is preferred.

Can "unobedient" describe a forgetful action?

Yes, "unobedient" can describe a passive, forgetful lack of obedience.

What context is "disobedient" most used in?

"Disobedient" is often used to describe willful noncompliance, especially in children or pets.

Can "disobedient" describe an animal?

Yes, an animal can be described as disobedient when it refuses commands.

What is an example of "disobedient" behavior?

Refusing to follow a direct order from a parent is disobedient behavior.

Is "unobedient" always negative?

It can be negative but is generally less harsh than "disobedient."

Can "unobedient" be used in formal writing?

It is not common in formal writing; "disobedient" would be more appropriate.

Which term is more commonly used?

"Disobedient" is more commonly used.

Is "unobedient" a formal word?

It is less formal and less common compared to "disobedient."

What is an example of "unobedient" behavior?

Not doing chores because of distraction can be unobedient behavior.

What part of speech is "disobedient"?

It is an adjective.

Can "unobedient" be used for adults?

It can be, though it is rare; "disobedient" is more likely used for adults as well.

What part of speech is "unobedient"?

It is an adjective.

Is "disobedient" always used negatively?

Yes, it generally carries a negative connotation.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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