[ 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 re·frac·to·ries.

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.

Nearby words

  1. refractively,
  2. refractivity,
  3. refractometer,
  4. refractometry,
  5. refractor,
  6. refractory anemia,
  7. refractory period,
  8. refractory state,
  9. refracture,
  10. refrain

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 formsre·frac·to·ri·ly, adverbre·frac·to·ri·ness, nounun·re·frac·to·ry, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for refractory

British Dictionary definitions for refractory


/ (rɪˈfræktərɪ) /


unmanageable or obstinate
med not responding to treatment
(of a material) able to withstand high temperatures without fusion or decomposition

noun plural -ries

a material, such as fireclay or alumina, that is able to withstand high temperatures: used to line furnaces, kilns, etc
Derived Formsrefractorily, adverbrefractoriness, noun

Word Origin for refractory

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

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

Medicine definitions for refractory


[ rĭ-frăktə-rē ]


Resistant to treatment, as a disease.
Unresponsive to stimuli, as a muscle or nerve fiber.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for refractory


[ rĭ-frăktə-rē ]

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.
Resistant to heat.
Of or relating to a refractory period.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.