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See more synonyms for refractory on Thesaurus.com
  1. hard or impossible to manage; stubbornly disobedient: a refractory child.
  2. resisting ordinary methods of treatment.
  3. difficult to fuse, reduce, or work, as an ore or metal.
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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.
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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

Synonyms for refractory

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Antonyms for refractory

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

Examples from the Web for refractory

Contemporary Examples of refractory

Historical Examples of refractory

  • He bid me tell you so, when he went out, if I found you refractory.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • She tugs and pulls, and thumps the refractory thing on the floor.

    Lotus Buds

    Amy Carmichael

  • Together and with whisperings, they fidgeted with the refractory catch.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Grace, who was struggling with a refractory window, paused for breath.

    Keziah Coffin

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • James was a refractory and disobedient child from the very cradle.

    An Old Sailor's Yarns

    Nathaniel Ames

British Dictionary definitions for refractory


  1. unmanageable or obstinate
  2. med not responding to treatment
  3. (of a material) able to withstand high temperatures without fusion or decomposition
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noun plural -ries
  1. a material, such as fireclay or alumina, that is able to withstand high temperatures: used to line furnaces, kilns, etc
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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

refractory in Medicine


  1. Resistant to treatment, as a disease.
  2. Unresponsive to stimuli, as a muscle or nerve fiber.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

refractory in Science


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