a. Stubbornly adhering to an attitude, opinion, or course of action; obdurate.
b. Characterized by such adherence: an obstinate refusal.
2. Difficult to manage, control, or treat: an obstinate problem; an obstinate headache.
[Middle English obstinat, from Latin obstinātus, past participle of obstināre, to persist; see stā- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: obstinate, stubborn, headstrong, recalcitrant, intractable, bullheaded, pigheaded, mulish
These adjectives mean tenaciously unwilling to yield. Obstinate implies unreasonable rigidity: “Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to obtain his assent, but he was obstinate” (Benjamin Franklin).
Stubborn pertains to innate, often perverse resoluteness or unyieldingness: “She was very stubborn when her mind was made up” (Samuel Butler).
People who are headstrong are obstinately bent on having their own way: The headstrong senator ignored his constituency. Those who are recalcitrant rebel against authority: The police arrested the recalcitrant protestors. Intractable refers to what is obstinate and difficult to manage or control: “the intractable ferocity of his captive” (Edgar Allan Poe).
Bullheaded suggests foolish or irrational obstinacy, and pigheaded, stupid obstinacy: Don't be bullheaded; see a doctor. “It's a pity pious folks are so apt to be pigheaded” (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Mulish implies the obstinacy and intractability associated with a mule: “It is a mark of my own chalky insecurity and mulish youth that I hounded Andy every chance I got” (Brian Doyle).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.