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[ri-frak-tuh-ree] /rɪˈfræk tə ri/
hard or impossible to manage; stubbornly disobedient:
a refractory child.
resisting ordinary methods of treatment.
difficult to fuse, reduce, or work, as an ore or metal.
noun, plural refractories.
a material having the ability to retain its physical shape and chemical identity when subjected to high temperatures.
refractories, bricks of various shapes used in lining furnaces.
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 forms
refractorily, adverb
refractoriness, noun
unrefractory, adjective
1. obstinate, perverse, mulish, headstrong, intractable, disobedient, recalcitrant, ungovernable. See unruly.
1. obedient, tractable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for refractoriness
Historical Examples
  • Since all resistance is useless, I lay down my arms although after relapses into refractoriness.

    Legends August Strindberg
  • He is willing to hope you to be all obedience, and would prevent all incitements to refractoriness.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • The great Potter is not to be blamed because of the refractoriness of the clay.

    The Potter and the Clay Arthur F. Winnington Ingram
  • This was all he had to offer to the Father in expiation of his contumely and refractoriness, his errors and his falls.

    The Cathedral Joris-Karl Huysmans
  • And he only gave way after Bartek's refractoriness also had been softened by unusual eloquence on Porankiewicz's part.

  • I considered them, therefore, as beings influenced by the most deplorable obduracy and refractoriness of spirit.

    The Devil's Elixir E. T. A. Hoffmann
  • Five babies at different stages of refractoriness are sprawling about on this strip of floor; they make noises all the time.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • This refractoriness varies in every species of animal in its relation to every form of germ.

  • Two stumbling-blocks were to be steered clear of:—the scruples of the Jewish converts, and the refractoriness of the Gentiles.

    Not Paul, But Jesus Jeremy Bentham
  • Pure clay base is also highly resistant to fire and therefore contributes to the refractoriness of the mass.

    The Potter's Craft Charles F. Binns
British Dictionary definitions for refractoriness


unmanageable or obstinate
(med) not responding to treatment
(of a material) able to withstand high temperatures without fusion or decomposition
noun (pl) -ries
a material, such as fireclay or alumina, that is able to withstand high temperatures: used to line furnaces, kilns, etc
Derived Forms
refractorily, adverb
refractoriness, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for refractoriness



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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refractoriness in Medicine

refractory re·frac·to·ry (rĭ-frāk'tə-rē)

  1. Resistant to treatment, as a disease.

  2. Unresponsive to stimuli, as a muscle or nerve fiber.

re·frac'to·ri·ness n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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refractoriness 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.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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