Definition of recalcitrant
- this subject is recalcitrant both to observation and to experiment
- —G. G. Simpson
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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
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'recalcitrant.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
balky, contrary, contumacious, defiant, disobedient, froward, incompliant, insubordinate, intractable, obstreperous, rebel, rebellious, refractory, restive, ungovernable, unruly, untoward, wayward, willful (or wilful);
adamant, adamantine, dogged, hardheaded, headstrong, immovable, implacable, inflexible, mulish, obdurate, obstinate, opinionated, peevish, pertinacious, pigheaded, rigid, self-willed, stubborn, unbending, uncompromising, unrelenting, unyielding;
: stubbornly refusing to obey rules or orders
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