in·​trac·​ta·​ble | \(ˌ)in-ˈtrak-tə-bəl \

Definition of intractable 

1 : not easily governed, managed, or directed intractable problems

2 : not easily manipulated or shaped intractable metal

3 : not easily relieved or cured intractable pain

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Other Words from intractable

intractability \ (ˌ)in-​ˌtrak-​tə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
intractably \ (ˌ)in-​ˈtrak-​tə-​blē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for intractable

unruly, ungovernable, intractable, refractory, recalcitrant, willful, headstrong mean not submissive to government or control. unruly implies lack of discipline or incapacity for discipline and often connotes waywardness or turbulence of behavior. unruly children ungovernable implies either an escape from control or guidance or a state of being unsubdued and incapable of controlling oneself or being controlled by others. ungovernable rage intractable suggests stubborn resistance to guidance or control. intractable opponents of the hazardous-waste dump refractory stresses resistance to attempts to manage or to mold. special schools for refractory children recalcitrant suggests determined resistance to or defiance of authority. acts of sabotage by a recalcitrant populace willful implies an obstinate determination to have one's own way. a willful disregard for the rights of others headstrong suggests self-will impatient of restraint, advice, or suggestion. a headstrong young cavalry officer

Examples of intractable in a Sentence

Contrary to the idea of black holes sucking everything, even light, into inconceivable nothingness, Hawking proposed that there was one thing that could escape a black hole's intractable grip: thermal radiation … — Bruno Maddox, Discover, September 2006 Sepsis, which is what happens to the body when an infection goes bad, is one of mankind's oldest and most intractable foes. — Leon Jaroff, Time, 24 July 2000 But now anesthesiologists have begun turning to an herb to help treat a deadly and often intractable lung condition that affects hundreds of thousands of people a year. — Eric Nagourney, New York Times, 26 Oct. 1999 a patient experiencing intractable pain an intractable child who deliberately does the opposite of whatever he is told
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Recent Examples on the Web

This was a throwaway line, said not to be taken seriously but to reinforce a bond with those who most definitely were not idiots and who strove to find intelligent solutions to intractable problems despite the odds. WSJ, "Dean Acheson, My Father, Really Was an Anglophile," 25 Oct. 2018 All three explore complex topics and search for solutions to intractable problems in our region. Don Shelton, The Seattle Times, "Despite upheaval in journalism, one thing at The Seattle Times hasn’t changed," 31 Aug. 2018 She was just diagnosed with intractable epilepsy for a long time, which means medications won’t work. Adam Adache, Time, "My 10-Year-Old Daughter Takes the First FDA-Approved Marijuana Drug. It's Changed Our Lives," 26 June 2018 Both had thought a lot about the seemingly intractable problem of underachieving inner-city kids. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "‘I Don’t Believe That Anymore’," 18 May 2018 The Central Texas girl, who suffers from intractable epilepsy, became the first person in Texas to receive a legal delivery of medical marijuana grown and produced here in the Lone Star State. Anna M. Tinsley, star-telegram, "First dose of medical marijuana is legally delivered to a young girl in Texas," 1 Feb. 2018 New Orleans officials, burdened with a seemingly intractable violent crime problem, are considering a plan that would create one of the most extensive video-monitoring systems for any midsize American city. Richard Fausset, New York Times, "Will 1,500 Street Cameras Be a Wet Blanket in New Orleans?," 30 Jan. 2018 The most intractable crisis in British politics since World War II is set to continue. Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor, "As clock ticks down, Britain finally reveals its plan for Brexit. What now?," 11 July 2018 Longino also refuses to give up on his hometown of East Cleveland, even if the problems there seem intractable. Greg Moore, azcentral, "Former ASU football star Antonio Longino refuses to give up on dreams," 30 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'intractable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of intractable

1531, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for intractable

Latin intractabilis, from in- + tractabilis tractable

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Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

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The first known use of intractable was in 1531

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English Language Learners Definition of intractable

: not easily managed, controlled, or solved

: not easily relieved or cured


in·​trac·​ta·​ble | \(ˈ)in-ˈtrak-tə-bəl \

Medical Definition of intractable 

1 : not easily managed or controlled (as by antibiotics or psychotherapy) an intractable child activity against many intractable Proteus and Pseudomonas species of bacteriaAnnual Report Pfizer

2 : not easily relieved or cured intractable pain intractable bleeding in duodenal ulcerJournal of the American Medical Association

Other Words from intractable

intractability \ (ˌ)in-​ˌtrak-​tə-​ˈbil-​ət-​ē \ noun plural intractabilities

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