1. Deviating from what is desired, expected, or required, especially in being disobedient or in gratifying one's own inclinations: "a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child" (George Orwell).
2. Difficult or impossible to manage, control, or keep in order: a wayward strand of hair.
3. Going somewhere not intended or desired: a wayward golf shot; a wayward courier.
4. Following no clear pattern; unpredictable: "events that were often thought to be wayward, capricious, and inexplicable" (Marq de Villiers).
[Middle English, short for awaiward, turned away, perverse : awai, away; see AWAY + -ward, -ward.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.