re·​frac·​to·​ry | \ ri-ˈfrak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce refractory (audio) \

Definition of refractory

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : resisting control or authority : stubborn, unmanageable
2a : resistant to treatment or cure a refractory lesion
b : unresponsive to stimulus
c : immune, insusceptible after recovery they were refractory to infection
3 : difficult to fuse, corrode, or draw out especially : capable of enduring high temperature


plural refractories

Definition of refractory (Entry 2 of 2)

: a refractory person or thing especially : a heat-resisting ceramic material

Other Words from refractory


refractorily \ ri-​ˈfrak-​t(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce refractory (audio) ; ˌrē-​ˌfrak-​ˈtȯr-​ə-​lē , ri-​ \ adverb
refractoriness \ ri-​ˈfrak-​t(ə-​)rē-​nəs How to pronounce refractory (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for refractory


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

Did you know?


Refractory is from the Latin word refractarius. During the 17th century, it was sometimes spelled as refractary, but that spelling, though more in keeping with its Latin parent, had fallen out of use by the century's end. Refractarius, like refractory, is the result of a slight variation in spelling. It stems from the Latin verb refragari, meaning "to oppose."

Examples of refractory in a Sentence

Adjective refractory players will be ejected from the game believing that rules are only for other people, he's been refractory virtually his entire life
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective At an outpatient clinic, Tawfik treats rare and refractory types of pain usually associated with surgery or injury, such as chronic neuropathic pain and complex regional pain syndrome. Troy Farah, Scientific American, 30 Sep. 2021 There have been some positive developments for Bristol Myers Squibb as well, including the EU approval for Abecma - the First Anti-BCMA CAR T Cell Therapy - for relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma. Trefis Team, Forbes, 28 Sep. 2021 Many less attractive traits are also recorded: Charles could be uncommunicative and dilatory, evasive and mendacious, refractory, vindictive, obstinate, even outright wicked, though self-delusive about the motives of others. R.j.w. Evans, The New York Review of Books, 11 June 2020 Cinematographer Yves Bélanger was having a fair amount of fun with fish-eye lenses, refractory visual effects, and askew angles. Roxana Hadadi, Vulture, 15 Sep. 2021 Many less attractive traits are also recorded: Charles could be uncommunicative and dilatory, evasive and mendacious, refractory, vindictive, obstinate, even outright wicked, though self-delusive about the motives of others. R.j.w. Evans, The New York Review of Books, 11 June 2020 The 9% rise can primarily be attributed to the announcement of positive interim data from a phase one study for patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell lymphoma. Trefis Team, Forbes, 30 Mar. 2021 Global biotech Oncopeptides won approval for Pepaxto, its drug to treat adults with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma., 31 Mar. 2021 He has also been profiled as a mostly hardline, conservative figure – even more refractory than his father – with especially tight ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Hollie Mckay, Fox News, 8 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Our systematic approach to research enabled the first-ever treatment (siltuximab) and discovery of a treatment for patients who are siltuximab-refractory, like me. K.n.c., The Economist, 27 Nov. 2019 Almost a third endure refractory epilepsy, meaning typical pharmaceutical drugs have little effect in reducing the instances or frequency of seizures. Robert Iddiols, CNN, 28 Sep. 2019 See More

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

First Known Use of refractory


1606, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1627, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for refractory


alteration of refractary, from Latin refractarius, irregular from refragari to oppose, from re- + -fragari (as in suffragari to support with one's vote)

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The first known use of refractory was in 1606

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Dictionary Entries Near refractory



refractory clay

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Cite this Entry

“Refractory.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for refractory


re·​frac·​to·​ry | \ ri-ˈfrak-tə-rē How to pronounce refractory (audio) \

Kids Definition of refractory

1 : resisting control or authority : stubborn a refractory child
2 : capable of enduring very high temperatures refractory clays


re·​frac·​to·​ry | \ ri-ˈfrak-t(ə-)rē How to pronounce refractory (audio) \

Medical Definition of refractory

1 : resistant to treatment or cure a refractory fulminant lesion had disease that was extremely refractory to multiple intensive therapies— Michelle L. Bennett et al.
2 : unresponsive to stimulus the refractory period of a muscle fiber
3 : resistant or not responding to an infectious agent : immune refractory to reinfection

More from Merriam-Webster on refractory

Nglish: Translation of refractory for Spanish Speakers


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