as in rebellious
given to resisting authority or another's control the manager worried that the recalcitrant employee would try to undermine his authority

Synonyms & Similar Words


Antonyms & Near Antonyms


Synonym Chooser

How does the adjective recalcitrant differ from other similar words?

Some common synonyms of recalcitrant are headstrong, intractable, refractory, ungovernable, unruly, and willful. While all these words mean "not submissive to government or control," recalcitrant suggests determined resistance to or defiance of authority.

acts of sabotage by a recalcitrant populace

When is headstrong a more appropriate choice than recalcitrant?

The words headstrong and recalcitrant can be used in similar contexts, but headstrong suggests self-will impatient of restraint, advice, or suggestion.

a headstrong young cavalry officer

When might intractable be a better fit than recalcitrant?

While the synonyms intractable and recalcitrant are close in meaning, intractable suggests stubborn resistance to guidance or control.

intractable opponents of the hazardous-waste dump

When could refractory be used to replace recalcitrant?

While in some cases nearly identical to recalcitrant, refractory stresses resistance to attempts to manage or to mold.

special schools for refractory children

Where would ungovernable be a reasonable alternative to recalcitrant?

Although the words ungovernable and recalcitrant have much in common, 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

In what contexts can unruly take the place of recalcitrant?

The words unruly and recalcitrant are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, unruly implies lack of discipline or incapacity for discipline and often connotes waywardness or turbulence of behavior.

unruly children

When would willful be a good substitute for recalcitrant?

The synonyms willful and recalcitrant are sometimes interchangeable, but willful implies an obstinate determination to have one's own way.

a willful disregard for the rights of others


Thesaurus Entries Near recalcitrant

Cite this Entry

“Recalcitrant.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on recalcitrant

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