stub·​born ˈstə-bərn How to pronounce stubborn (audio)
: unreasonably or perversely unyielding : mulish
: justifiably unyielding : resolute
: suggestive or typical of a strong stubborn nature
a stubborn jaw
: performed or carried on in an unyielding, obstinate, or persistent manner
stubborn effort
: difficult to handle, manage, or treat
a stubborn cold
: lasting
stubborn facts
stubbornly adverb
stubbornness noun

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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.

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web After a stellar 2023, the stock market has continued to brush off the impact of stubborn inflation and higher interest rates this year. Will Daniel, Fortune, 5 June 2024 Both are notoriously stubborn and possessive, which can result in power struggles and control issues within the relationship. Valerie Mesa, Peoplemag, 18 May 2024 Even housing, the largest component of the inflation index and one of the most stubborn, showed cautious hints of improvement. Ben Casselman, New York Times, 15 May 2024 The burst of stubborn price increases, meanwhile, has only lasted a few months. Max Zahn, ABC News, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for stubborn 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'stubborn.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English stibourne, stuborn

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near stubborn

Cite this Entry

“Stubborn.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


stub·​born ˈstəb-ərn How to pronounce stubborn (audio)
: hard to convince, persuade, or move
stubborn as a mule
: having or characterized by a firm idea or purpose : determined
stubborn courage
: done or continued in a firm and determined manner
stubborn refusal
: difficult to handle, manage, or treat
stubborn hair
stubbornly adverb
stubbornness noun

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