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[ri-frak-tuh-ree] /rɪˈfræk tə ri/
hard or impossible to manage; stubbornly disobedient:
a refractory child.
resisting ordinary methods of treatment.
difficult to fuse, reduce, or work, as an ore or metal.
noun, plural refractories.
a material having the ability to retain its physical shape and chemical identity when subjected to high temperatures.
refractories, bricks of various shapes used in lining furnaces.
Origin of refractory
1600-10; variant of refractary (by analogy with adjectives in -ory1) < Latin refrāctārius stubborn, obstinate, equivalent to refrāct(us) (see refract) + -ārius -ary
Related forms
refractorily, adverb
refractoriness, noun
unrefractory, adjective
1. obstinate, perverse, mulish, headstrong, intractable, disobedient, recalcitrant, ungovernable. See unruly.
1. obedient, tractable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for refractory
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He bid me tell you so, when he went out, if I found you refractory.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • She tugs and pulls, and thumps the refractory thing on the floor.

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael
  • Together and with whisperings, they fidgeted with the refractory catch.

    Mary-'Gusta Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Grace, who was struggling with a refractory window, paused for breath.

    Keziah Coffin Joseph C. Lincoln
  • James was a refractory and disobedient child from the very cradle.

    An Old Sailor's Yarns Nathaniel Ames
  • Brook shook his head and began to refill his refractory pipe.

    Adam Johnstone's Son

    F. Marion Crawford
  • She evidently dreaded a meeting with her refractory teacher.

    Olive Dinah Maria Craik, (AKA Dinah Maria Mulock)
  • The porters were not always easy to manage, and on some occasions were refractory.

    From Pole to Pole

    Sven Anders Hedin
  • No temper is exactly sunny after a struggle with a refractory engine.

    Lady Bountiful George A. Birmingham
British Dictionary definitions for refractory


unmanageable or obstinate
(med) not responding to treatment
(of a material) able to withstand high temperatures without fusion or decomposition
noun (pl) -ries
a material, such as fireclay or alumina, that is able to withstand high temperatures: used to line furnaces, kilns, etc
Derived Forms
refractorily, adverb
refractoriness, noun
Word Origin
C17: variant of obsolete refractary; see refract
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for refractory

"stubborn, obstinate, perverse," 1610s (earlier refractorious, 1550s, refractary, c.1600), from Latin refractarius "obstinate, stubborn," from past participle stem of refringere (see refraction). Related: Refractorily; refractoriness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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refractory in Medicine

refractory re·frac·to·ry (rĭ-frāk'tə-rē)

  1. Resistant to treatment, as a disease.

  2. Unresponsive to stimuli, as a muscle or nerve fiber.

re·frac'to·ri·ness n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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refractory in Science
  1. Having a high melting point. Ceramics that are made from clay and minerals are often refractory, as are metal oxides and carbides. Refractory materials are often used as liners in furnaces.

  2. Resistant to heat.

  3. Of or relating to a refractory period.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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