[ ri-frak-tuh-ree ]
See synonyms for refractory on
  1. hard or impossible to manage; stubbornly disobedient: a refractory child.

  2. resisting ordinary methods of treatment.

  1. difficult to fuse, reduce, or work, as an ore or metal.

noun,plural re·frac·to·ries.
  1. a material having the ability to retain its physical shape and chemical identity when subjected to high temperatures.

  2. refractories, bricks of various shapes used in lining furnaces.

Origin of refractory

First recorded in 1600–10; variant of refractary (by analogy with adjectives in -ory1), from Latin refrāctārius “stubborn, obstinate,” equivalent to refrāct(us) (see refract) + -ārius-ary

synonym study For refractory

1. See unruly.

Other words for refractory

Opposites for refractory

Other words from refractory

  • re·frac·to·ri·ly, adverb
  • re·frac·to·ri·ness, noun
  • un·re·frac·to·ry, adjective

Words Nearby refractory Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use refractory in a sentence

  • The guard-room, 8, is identified by the remains of stocks, in which the refractory were fastened for punishment or safe-keeping.

    The Private Life of the Romans | Harold Whetstone Johnston
  • She understood literature and the beauties of poetry, but it was too late to cultivate her refractory memory.

British Dictionary definitions for refractory


/ (rɪˈfræktərɪ) /

  1. unmanageable or obstinate

  2. med not responding to treatment

  1. (of a material) able to withstand high temperatures without fusion or decomposition

nounplural -ries
  1. a material, such as fireclay or alumina, that is able to withstand high temperatures: used to line furnaces, kilns, etc

Origin of refractory

C17: variant of obsolete refractary; see refract

Derived forms of refractory

  • refractorily, adverb
  • refractoriness, noun

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

Scientific definitions for refractory


[ rĭ-frăktə-rē ]

  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.

  1. Of or relating to a refractory period.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.