Word: obstinate

Pronunciation: AHB-stə-nət

Part of Speech: adjective


  1. stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action
  2. (of an unwelcome situation) very difficult to change or overcome

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

“Obstinate” is another word I learned thanks to vocabulary flashcards in standardized test prep materials. Until then, I was only familiar with much simpler terms for “stubborn”, such as “hardheaded” and “strong-willed”. To be honest, I was surprised I had no memory of ever seeing this word before, since it seems intermediate enough to fit into the type of writing I usually like to read, but then again, “stubborn” usually works well enough to get the point across.

A person who is “obstinate” is someone who won’t change their stand on an opinion or action even after attempts have been made to persuade them otherwise. Similarly, an “obstinate” situation is one that is hard to overcome or change for the better. The word can be retraced to the Latin adjective obstinatus (“firm, resolved, resolute”), in turn stemming from the Latin verb obstinare (“persist, be determined on”), or so my research has led me to understand.

It’s worth noting that while “stubborn” is a more general term for any person who is naturally resistant to altering their ways, “obstinate” is more appropriate for describing specific cases in which one refuses to back down on a decision, especially when others try to convince them to change it. Also, while there are other synonyms for “stubborn” that may be neutral, this word usually seems to carry a more negative connotation, as in unpleasant behavior or problems that can’t easily be fixed. In light of this information, when describing someone, I would probably suggest using “obstinate” to define unyielding behavior on a particular course of action that might otherwise be atypical for the character in question. In most other cases, “stubborn” and its simpler substitutes would likely work just fine.

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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