adjective stub·born \ ˈstə-bərn \
|Updated on: 7 Jul 2018

Definition of stubborn

1 a (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




play \ˈstə-bər(n)-nəs\ noun

Examples of stubborn in a Sentence

  1. 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 ElliotMirrors of the Unseen2006
  2. 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 PalmucciReal SimpleApril 2003
  3. 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 GoldWall Street Journal29 Oct. 2002
  4. She's wrong, but she's too stubborn to admit it.

  5. I admire his stubborn refusal to quit.

  6. trying to treat a stubborn infection

Recent Examples of stubborn from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of stubborn

Middle English stibourne, stuborn

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of stubborn for English Language Learners

  • : refusing to change your ideas or to stop doing something

  • : difficult to deal with, remove, etc.

STUBBORN Defined for Kids


adjective stub·born \ ˈstə-bərn \

Definition of stubborn for Students

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





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up stubborn? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


a downward inclination or slope

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a-pile-of-three-dimensional-shapes-in-green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!