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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for intractable


  1. difficult to influence or directan intractable disposition
  2. (of a problem, illness, etc) difficult to solve, alleviate, or cure
  3. difficult to shape or mould, esp with the hands
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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 intractable


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

intractable in Medicine


  1. Difficult to manage or govern; stubborn.
  2. Difficult to alleviate, remedy, or cure.
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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.