stub·born | \ ˈstə-bərn \

Definition of stubborn 

1a(1) : unreasonably or perversely unyielding : mulish

(2) : justifiably unyielding : resolute

b : suggestive or typical of a strong stubborn nature a stubborn jaw

2 : performed or carried on in an unyielding, obstinate, or persistent manner stubborn effort

3 : difficult to handle, manage, or treat a stubborn cold

4 : lasting stubborn facts

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Other words from stubborn

stubbornly adverb
stubbornness \ˈstə-bər(n)-nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for stubborn

obstinate, dogged, stubborn, pertinacious, mulish mean fixed and unyielding in course or purpose. obstinate implies usually an unreasonable persistence. an obstinate proponent of conspiracy theories dogged suggests an admirable often tenacious and unwavering persistence. pursued the story with dogged perseverance stubborn implies sturdiness in resisting change which may or may not be admirable. a person too stubborn to admit error pertinacious suggests an annoying or irksome persistence. a pertinacious salesclerk refusing to take no for an answer mulish implies a thoroughly unreasonable obstinacy. a mulish determination to have his own way

Stubborn as a Mule (or Some Other Animal)

Most of us are familiar with the expression stubborn as a mule, which some feel is unfair to this hybrid animal. In fairness to the mule, let us look at some of the other animals that the English language has seen fit to equate with stubbornness over the years. John Wolcot wrote of being “as stubborn as a halter’d ram.” In the 19th century satirical work The Family of the Seisers, a character is described as being “as stubborn as a dog-fish.” And a character in Maria Edgeworth’s play Love and Law describes her own hair as “stubborn as a Presbyterian.” These curious phrases are, however, exceptional: the mule is by far the most commonly referenced animal when describing stubbornness. We have been using as stubborn as a mule since at least 1771, when the expression appears in Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker.

Examples of stubborn in a Sentence

Louise was not the first to posit the idea of a miniature horse ancestral to the Arab; but she was the only one stubborn enough to prove it. —Jason Elliot, Mirrors of the Unseen, 2006 To remove stubborn price tags from items like dishes and glassware, I use a cotton pad or Q-tip soaked with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol dissolves the sticky glue and doesn't mess up my manicure. —Kathe Palmucci, Real Simple, April 2003 In the search for strategies to deal with the stubborn and deadly problem of driving under the influence, many cops are turning to an unusual tactic: Recruiting volunteer drinkers and drug users to teach officers to recognize impaired drivers. —Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal, 29 Oct. 2002 She's wrong, but she's too stubborn to admit it. I admire his stubborn refusal to quit. trying to treat a stubborn infection
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Recent Examples on the Web

The soccer team, which has overcome a slow start to its World Cup to reach the knockout round, will need a big effort in Samara to get past a stubborn and talented Mexican team and continue its push toward a title. Kevin Baxter,, "Brazil and the Russian city it will play in are both seeking a comeback," 29 June 2018 Ola had a will so dauntless as to be called stubborn, and throughout all of her aging, never quite did grow old., "Ola K. Ferla," 11 July 2018 Pfizer chief executive Ian Read has been as resolutely stubborn as Trump, in fact. Ed Silverman, STAT, "He can shame Pfizer and others, but Trump doesn’t have a practical way to lower drug prices," 9 July 2018 The cold is too stubborn to allow surface ice to gently melt into oblivion. Mejs Hasan, WIRED, "How Scientists Tracked Antarctica's Stunning Ice Loss," 13 June 2018 As Toni Reavis writes about Rupp, If not now, when? Rupp finished second last year, despite a build-up dogged by a stubborn case of plantar fasciitis. Ken Goe,, "The time is right for Galen Rupp at the Boston Marathon: Oregon track & field rundown," 14 Apr. 2018 Cold air stuck at the surface is being quite stubborn in giving way to a blob of warm air that wants to move in. Greg Porter, Washington Post, "PM Update: Clouds and spots of drizzle tonight. Springlike warmth arrives by Tuesday afternoon.," 19 Feb. 2018 Loon was part of Google X, the arm of the search company that fostered audacious projects applying emerging technologies to stubborn problems in novel ways. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Inside X, the Moonshot Factory Racing to Build the Next Google," 11 July 2018 Delivering this visual stimulation using virtual reality solves a stubborn problem in the field. Rebecca Robbins, STAT, "A daredevil researcher’s latest quest: to restore sight lost to glaucoma using virtual reality," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stubborn.' 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 stubborn

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for stubborn

Middle English stibourne, stuborn

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Phrases Related to stubborn

(as) stubborn as a mule

stubborn streak

Statistics for stubborn

Last Updated

1 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stubborn

The first known use of stubborn was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for stubborn



English Language Learners Definition of stubborn

: refusing to change your ideas or to stop doing something

: difficult to deal with, remove, etc.


stub·born | \ ˈstə-bərn \

Kids Definition of stubborn

1 : refusing to change an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or urging She's too stubborn to ask for help.

2 : persistent a stubborn cough

3 : difficult to handle, manage, or treat a stubborn stain

Other words from stubborn

stubbornly adverb
stubbornness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on stubborn

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stubborn

Spanish Central: Translation of stubborn

Nglish: Translation of stubborn for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stubborn for Arabic Speakers

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