Adjective > Insolent

Insolent people are speaking in a rude way, usually because they’re being disrespectful or too relaxed.

(And insolent things are said or done with that kind of rudeness.)

IN suh lunt

Part of speech:
Adjective: “an insolent laugh,” “their remarks were insolent.”

Other forms:
The ones we use often are “insolently” and “insolence.”

In case you were wondering if “solent” is the opposite of “insolent:” nope. “Solent” is an obsolete word meaning “usual, customary,” last seen in print in 1694.

In older texts, you might see “insolent” used as a noun to mean “a person who’s rude and cheeky,” as in “thou art an insolent,” a sick burn back in 1765.

How to use it:
When people’s rudeness seems to result from their overly casual attitudes, especially toward authoritative people who deserve respect, or toward well-established rules and traditions, call them insolent.

Insolent” is a formal word and very common. While it’s often spoken in criticism, it can be spoken in praise, too, suggesting that someone’s rude defiance is justified, rooted in bravery or determination.

With all that in mind, talk about insolent people and their insolent behavior, manners, gestures, comments, etc.

Occasionally we apply the word “insolent” to emotions or characteristics: insolent glee” (Los Angeles Times), insolent suavity” (New Yorker), insolent vehemence” (New York Times).

“But at [the film’s] heart is a fierce, insolent and compassionate Errol Flynn, the dashing embodiment of the [swashbuckling] genre, in the role of a lifetime.”
— Andrew Webster, The New York Times, 10 May 2017

“In religion, and in every deeply serious view of the world and of human destiny, there is an element of submission, a realization of the limits of human power, which is somewhat lacking in the modern world, with its quick material successes and its insolent belief in the boundless possibilities of progress.”
— Bertrand Russell, who wasn’t always that grouchy, Contemplation and Action, 1902-1914