1. done, shown, used, etc., maliciously or unjustifiably: a wanton attack; wanton cruelty.
  2. deliberate and without motive or provocation; uncalled-for; headstrong; willful: Why jeopardize your career in such a wanton way?
  3. without regard for what is right, just, humane, etc.; careless; reckless: a wanton attacker of religious convictions.
  4. sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd: wanton behavior.
  5. extravagantly or excessively luxurious, as a person, manner of living, or style.
  6. luxuriant, as vegetation.
  7. Archaic.
    1. sportive or frolicsome, as children or young animals.
    2. having free play: wanton breezes; a wanton brook.


  1. a wanton or lascivious person, especially a woman.

verb (used without object)

  1. to behave in a wanton manner; become wanton.

verb (used with object)

  1. to squander, especially in pleasure (often followed by away): to wanton away one’s inheritance.


  1. dissolute, licentious, or immoral
  2. without motive, provocation, or justificationwanton destruction
  3. maliciously and unnecessarily cruel or destructive
  4. unrestrainedwanton spending
  5. archaic, or poetic playful or capricious
  6. archaic (of vegetation, etc) luxuriant or superabundant


  1. a licentious person, esp a woman
  2. a playful or capricious person


  1. (intr) to behave in a wanton manner
  2. (tr) to squander or waste

n.“one who is ill-behaved,” especially (but not originally) “lascivious, lewd person,” c.1400, from wanton (adj.). v.1580s, from wanton (n.). Related: Wantoned; wantoning. adj.c.1300, wan-towen, “resistant to control; willful,” from Middle English privative prefix wan- “wanting, lacking” (from Old English wan “wanting;” see wane) + togen, past participle of teon “to train, discipline;” literally “to pull, draw,” from Proto-Germanic *teuhan (cf. Old High German ziohan “to pull;” see tug). The basic notion perhaps is “ill-bred, poorly brought up;” cf. German ungezogen “ill-bred, rude, haughty,” literally “unpulled.” As Flies to wanton Boyes are we to th’ Gods, They kill vs for their sport. [Shakespeare, “Lear,” 1605] Especially of sexual indulgence from late 14c. The only English survival of a once-common Germanic negating prefix still active in Dutch (cf. wanbestuur “misgovernment,” wanluid “discordant sound”), German (wahn-), etc. Related: Wantonly; wantonness.

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