1 : obstinately defiant of authority or restraint
2 a : difficult to manage or operate
b : not responsive to treatment
c : resistant
Anna's doctor ordered a week of complete bed rest, but, ever recalcitrant when it comes to doctors' orders, she was up and baking a cake after two days.
"Finally, he laid down the parental law: You will go on a hike and, gosh darn it, you will enjoy yourself. So the recalcitrant 14-year-old shrugged into her sweat shirt, slipped into her flimsy … canvas sneakers (totally hiking-inappropriate) and slumped in the back seat for the drive southwest to Vacaville, Calif., and Lagoon Valley Regional Park." - From an article by Sam McManis in Tri-City Herald (Washington), June 30, 2011
Did You Know?
Long before any human was dubbed "recalcitrant" in English (that first occurred, as best we know, in one of William Thackeray's works in 1843), there were stubborn mules (and horses) kicking back their heels. The ancient Romans noted as much (Pliny the Elder among them), and they had a word for it - "recalcitrare," which literally means "to kick back." (Its root "calc-," meaning "heel," is also the root of "calcaneus," the large bone of the heel in humans.) Certainly Roman citizens in Pliny's time were sometimes willful and hardheaded - as attested by various Latin words meaning "stubborn" - but it wasn’t until later that writers of Late Latin applied "recalcitrare" and its derivative adjective to humans who were stubborn as mules.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "recalcitrant": cnuaiu. The answer is ...