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  1. resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant; refractory.
  2. hard to deal with, manage, or operate.
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  1. a recalcitrant person.
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Origin of recalcitrant

1835–45; < Latin recalcitrant- (stem of recalcitrāns, present participle of recalcitrāre to kick back), equivalent to re- re- + calcitr(āre) to strike with the heels, kick (derivative of calx heel) + -ant- -ant
Related formsre·cal·ci·trance, re·cal·ci·tran·cy, nounnon·re·cal·ci·trance, nounnon·re·cal·ci·tran·cy, nounnon·re·cal·ci·trant, adjectiveun·re·cal·ci·trant, adjective


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1. resistant, rebellious, opposed. See unruly.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for recalcitrant


  1. not susceptible to control or authority; refractory
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  1. a recalcitrant person
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Derived Formsrecalcitrance, noun

Word Origin

C19: via French from Latin recalcitrāre, from re- + calcitrāre to kick, from calx heel
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 recalcitrant


1823, from French récalcitrant, literally "kicking back" (17c.-18c.), past participle of recalcitrare "to kick back; be inaccessible," from re- "back" (see re-) + Latin calcitrare "to kick," from calx (genitive calcis) "heel." Used from 1797 as a French word in English.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper