Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Obstinate

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is obstinate. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Obstinate at its most basic means “stubborn.” It describes people who refuse to change their behavior or ideas in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion, and it describes things that are not easily fixed, removed, or dealt with.

// The project that had been the group’s main focus for weeks was temporarily stymied by one obstinate member’s refusal to compromise.

// The planning committee discussed ways to mitigate the obstinate problem of gentrification.

OBSTINATE in Context

“… [Louise Bates] Ames has an uncanny way of capturing the essence of children at different developmental stages, and when you understand that it is your child’s work to behave this way, that the behavior is serving growth and maturity, you are less likely to try to squash it. For instance, when you’ve nicely asked your 2-year-old to stop jumping on the couch and they look you in the eyes and keep jumping? It’s helpful to know that this obstinate behavior is normal and is not a reason to double-down or punish your child. Instead, speak less, redirect and provide other things for your child to jump on.” — Meghan Leahy, The Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022

Did You Know?

English has no shortage of words to describe stubbornness, and obstinate is one you might want to latch onto. It suggests an unreasonable persistence and is often used negatively to describe someone who is unwilling to change course or to give up a belief or plan. Animals can be obstinate, too—for instance, say, a beloved pet cat that refuses to get out of your easy chair when you want to sit down. Such an example makes a lot of sense with regard to obstinate’s history, too: the word traces back to a combination of the Latin prefix ob-, meaning “in the way,” and a word related to stare, meaning “to stand.” But if you’re adamant about describing Whiskers’ stubborn behavior in more faunal terms, allow us to suggest bullheadeddogged, or mulish.

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