[ stuhb-ern ]
/ ˈstʌb ərn /
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See synonyms for: stubborn / stubbornly / stubbornness on Thesaurus.com

unreasonably obstinate; obstinately unmoving: a stubborn child.
fixed or set in purpose or opinion; resolute: a stubborn opponent of foreign aid.
obstinately maintained, as a course of action: a stubborn resistance.
difficult to manage or suppress: a stubborn horse; a stubborn pain.
hard, tough, or stiff, as stone or wood; difficult to shape or work.
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Origin of stubborn

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English stiborn(e), styborne, stuborn; origin uncertain

synonym study for stubborn

2. Stubborn, dogged, obstinate, persistent imply fixity of purpose or condition and resistance to change. Stubborn and obstinate both imply resistance to advice, entreaty, remonstrance, or force; but stubborn implies more of innate quality and is the more frequently used when referring to inanimate things: stubborn disposition; stubborn difficulties. Dogged implies pertinacity and grimness in doing something, especially in the face of discouragements: dogged determination. Persistent implies having staying or lasting qualities, resoluteness, and perseverance: persistent questioning.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


Where does stubborn come from?

The origin of stubborn is itself fittingly stubborn, or “unreasonably obstinate.” We might assume stubborn is connected to stub, a “short, projecting part or remaining piece” that is often immovable and unyielding. But that just doesn’t seem to be true.

Stubborn is recorded around 1350–1400 and took such forms as stiborn(e), styborne, and stuborn. Beyond that, we just don’t really know. Thanks for nothing, stubborn.

Stubborn isn’t alone: it finds lots of company in other English words that seem simple but whose origins are not. Discover more in our slideshow “‘Dog,’ ‘Boy,’ And Other Words That We Don’t Know Where They Came From.”

Did you know … ?

Some words that are very similar to stubborn include obstinate, dogged, and persistent.

Looking for other synonyms for stubborn? Head on over to Thesaurus.com for loads more. 

We usually consider stubbornness to be a bad quality of a close-minded person acting in some unreasonable way (such as a stubborn child) or refusing to change their mind (e.g., stubborn holdout). Stubborn is also used to describe inanimate things that refuse to budge or cooperate, as in a stubborn nail or stubborn belief.

The expression stubborn as a mule is used to describe an especially unwavering or uncooperative instance of stubbornness. The simile evokes the proverbial stubbornness of mules, who were once commonly used as draft animals.

How to use stubborn in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for stubborn

/ (ˈstʌbən) /

refusing to comply, agree, or give in; obstinate
difficult to handle, treat, or overcome
persistent and doggeda stubborn crusade

Derived forms of stubborn

stubbornly, adverbstubbornness, noun

Word Origin for stubborn

C14 stoborne, of obscure origin
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