Webster 1913 Edition



, p. pr. of
to kick back; pref.
re- +
to kick, fr.
heel. Cf.
Kicking back; recalcitrating; hence, showing repugnance or opposition; refractory.

Definition 2024



See also: récalcitrant



recalcitrant (comparative more recalcitrant, superlative most recalcitrant)

  1. Marked by a stubborn unwillingness to obey authority.
    • 1908, Edith Wharton, "In Trust" in The Hermit and the Wild Woman and Other Stories:
      His nimble fancy was recalcitrant to mental discipline.
    • 1914, P. G. Wodehouse, "Death at the Excelsior":
      There was something in her manner so reminiscent of the school teacher reprimanding a recalcitrant pupil that Mr. Snyder's sense of humor came to his rescue.
    • 1959 June 8, "Kenya: The Hola Scandal," Time:
      Kenya's official "Cowan Plan," named after a colonial prison administrator, decreed that recalcitrant prisoners "be manhandled to the site and forced to carry out the task."
  2. Unwilling to cooperate socially.
  3. Difficult to deal with or to operate.
    • 2003, Robert G. Wetzel, Solar radiation as an ecosystem modulator, in E. Walter Helbling, Horacio Zagarese (editors), UV Effects in Aquatic Organisms and Ecosystems, page 13:
      The more labile organic constituents of complex dissolved and particulate organic matter are commonly hydrolyzed and metabolized more rapidly than more recalcitrant organic compounds that are less accessible enzymatically.
    • 2004, Derek W. Urwin, Germany: From Geographical Expression to Regional Accommodation, in Michael Keating (editor), Regions and Regionalism in Europe, page 47:
      The Hansa had no legal status, independent finances or a common institutional framework, while the major weapon against recalcitrant members (or opponents) was the threat of embargo.
    • 2006, Janet Pierrehumbert, Syllable structure and word structure: a study of triconsonantal clusters in English, in Patricia A. Keating (editor), Phonological Structure and Phonetic Form, page 179:
      Particularly recalcitrant examples which made it impossible to remove actual words while maintaining the balance of the set were resolved by altering a consonant in the base word to create a new base form.
    • 2010, Brian J. Hall, John C. Hall, Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, page 251:
      However, when a clinician is faced with a more recalcitrant case, it is important to remember to ask the patient whether psychological, social, or occupational stress might be contributing to the activity of the skin disorder.
    • 2014 May 11, Ivan Hewett, “Piano Man: a Life of John Ogdon by Charles Beauclerk, review: A new biography of the great British pianist whose own genius destroyed him [print version: A colossus off-key, 10 May 2014, p. R27]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review):
      The temptation is to regard him [John Ogdon] as an idiot savant, a big talent bottled inside a recalcitrant body and accompanied by a personality that seems not just unremarkable, but almost entirely blank.
  4. (botany, of seed, pollen, spores) Not viable for an extended period; damaged by drying or freezing.



Derived terms



recalcitrant (plural recalcitrants)

  1. A person who is recalcitrant.




  1. third-person plural present active indicative of recalcitrō