not easily controlled or directed; not docile or manageable; stubborn; obstinate: an intractable disposition.
(of things) hard to shape or work with: an intractable metal.
hard to treat, relieve, or cure: the intractable pain in his leg.


an intractable person.

Origin of intractable

From the Latin word intractābilis, dating back to 1535–45. See in-3, tractable
Related formsin·trac·ta·bil·i·ty, in·trac·ta·ble·ness, nounin·trac·ta·bly, adverb

Synonyms for intractable

Antonyms for intractable Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for intractability

Contemporary Examples of intractability

Historical Examples of intractability

  • The intractability of the Lady Jezebel was beyond all bounds.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • Heaven supply me with fortitude to contest her wild opinions, and intractability!

    A Laodicean

    Thomas Hardy

  • Wasn't she the author of a pamphlet on the intractability of servants?


    August Strindberg

  • If Jill was to be wooed from her mood of intractability, Derek was the only man to do it.

    The Little Warrior

    P. G. Wodehouse

  • Or weeks or months or years according to the degree of our intractability.

    When Ghost Meets Ghost

    William Frend De Morgan

British Dictionary definitions for intractability



difficult to influence or directan intractable disposition
(of a problem, illness, etc) difficult to solve, alleviate, or cure
difficult to shape or mould, esp with the hands
Derived Formsintractability or intractableness, nounintractably, adverb
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

Word Origin and History for intractability

1570s, from intractable + -ity.



c.1500, "rough, stormy;" 1540s, "not manageable," from Latin intractabilis "not to be handled, unmanageable," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + tractabilis (see tractable). Related: Intractably.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

intractability in Medicine




Difficult to manage or govern; stubborn.
Difficult to alleviate, remedy, or cure.
Related formsin•trac′ta•bili•ty n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.