• recalcitrant •
ri-kæl-sê-trênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Unrelentingly defiant, rigidly obstinate or adamant, unwilling to give an inch, immovable, perversely refractory or intractable. 2. Unruly, ungovernable, willful, headstrong.
Notes: Today's word is related to the verb recalcitrate, which originally meant, not to dig the heels in, but to kick backwards, like the proverbial obstinate jackass. The attitude itself is recalcitrance, though some very articulate folks insist on recalcitrancy. We are not recalcitrant on the issue and accede to their wishes.
In Play: The mind of a stubborn person may be changed, but once we become recalcitrant, persuasion does not work: "Unfortunately, the boss has taken a recalcitrant position against playing computer games during business hours." Let us hope the boss does not have a recalcitrant employee who insists on a game break when staring at a monitor for hours leaves her eyes crossed.
Word History: This word comes to us from Late Latin recalcitrant-, the present participle of recalcitrare "to be disobedient". In classical Latin this verb meant "to kick back", based on re- "back" + calcitrare "to kick" from the noun calx, calc- "heel". The original root, kal-, turns up in many Indo-European languages, usually referring to a joint: Russian koleno "knee", German Hals "neck", Greek skelis "hip, thigh". In English we find it in helve, the handle of any tool. (Today's Good Word is a gift from the recalcitrant William the Mysterious of the Alpha Agora, who adamantly refuses to release his family name.)
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