Rebel Without a Cause, a

Meaning of Idiom ‘A Rebel without a Cause’

A rebel without a cause is a person who is extremely dissatisfied with the norms of society in general, including the government, but who doesn’t fight for any particular cause. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

Examples Of Use

“He’s a rebel without a cause. That basically means he complains a lot but does nothing about it.”

“Jamies Dean was not really a rebel without a cause. He was a member of the Young Republicans!”

“Max likes to be viewed as some kind of rebel without a cause, but in reality he’s simply concerned with his image.”


A rebel, when used as a noun, is a person who fights against a government or person in authority.

This idiom derives from the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean, a film about emotionally distured suburban teenagers. The title of the film, in turn, was adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner’s 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.