Definition of recalcitrant
1 : obstinately defiant of authority or restraint
2a : difficult to manage or operateb : not responsive to treatmentc : resistant this subject is recalcitrant both to observation and to experiment — G. G. Simpson
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Examples of recalcitrant in a sentence
But Smith managed to rally and to learn, through trial and error, how to milk what he needed out of an often recalcitrant medical system. —Gina Kolata, New York Times Book Review, 7 Sept. 1997
For anyone who has ever struggled to extract a recalcitrant cork from a bottle … the value of a good corkscrew is a given. —Ettagale Blauer, Wine Spectator, 31 Oct. 1996
George and I were down in a trench hacking at one particularly recalcitrant oak carcass when a local farmer pulled up in his truck. —P. J. O'Rourke, Republican Party Reptile, 1987
You are not the kind of person who beats on recalcitrant vending machines. —Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City, 1984
In November 1891, James Naismith, a 32-year-old Canadian-born instructor at the International Y.M.C.A. Training School in Springfield, was asked to invent an indoor game to help tame the members of a recalcitrant gym class. —Scott Ellsworth, New York Times, 29 May 1994
the manager worried that the recalcitrant employee would try to undermine his authority
a heart-to-heart talk with the recalcitrant youth revealed that he had a troubled life at home
Did You Know?
Long before any human was dubbed "recalcitrant" in English (that first occurred, as best we know, in one of William Thackeray's works in 1843), there were stubborn mules (and horses) kicking back their heels. The ancient Romans noted as much (Pliny the Elder among them), and they had a word for it - "recalcitrare," which literally means "to kick back." (Its root calc-, meaning "heel," is also the root of "calcaneus," the large bone of the heel in humans.) Certainly Roman citizens in Pliny's time were sometimes willful and hardheaded - as attested by various Latin words meaning "stubborn" - but it wasn’t until later that writers of Late Latin applied recalcitrare and its derivative adjective to humans who were stubborn as mules.
Origin and Etymology of recalcitrant
Late Latin recalcitrant-, recalcitrans, present participle of recalcitrare to be stubbornly disobedient, from Latin, to kick back, from re- + calcitrare to kick, from calc-, calx heel
First Known Use: 1843
Synonym Discussion of recalcitrant
RECALCITRANT Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of recalcitrant for English Language Learners
: stubbornly refusing to obey rules or orders
Medical Definition of recalcitrant
: not responsive to treatment severe recalcitrant psoriasis recalcitrant warts
Seen and Heard
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