Word of the Month: Obdurate

David Zapatka

Do you have any stubborn people in your life, possibly a relative, friend, co-worker or someone you have interaction with for various other reasons? Thanks to reader Kim Park, if you don’t already use this month’s word, you will have a new way to describe that behavior.

Obdurate – adjective ob·du·rate ˈäb-də-rət, -dyə-; äb-ˈdu̇r-ət, əb-, -ˈdyu̇r- obdurately – adverb; obdurateness

– noun – resistant to persuasion or softening influences; stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing; hardened in feelings; refusing to do what other people want; not willing to change your opinion or the way you do something.

First Known Use: 15th century; Origin and etymology – Middle English, from Latin obduratus, past participle of obdurare to harden, from ob- against + durus hard

Examples of obdurate in a sentence: “He is known for his obdurate determination.” “The obdurate refusal of her to listen to any reasoning makes your point.”

Examples of obdurate used in literature by authors:

“A thousand times, people may have touched each other, but never ever sensed a single vein of oneness or complicity in the wilderness of their inner world, since obdurate mental impediments have been barricading the road to understanding and propinquity.” — Erik Pevernagie

“Argument does not soften, but rather hardens, the obdurate heart.” — Orville Dewey

“The past is an obdurate stranger that puts as many marks on us as we attempt to impose on it.” — Joanne Harris

“Her photograph shows an aged and obdurate man with a tinge of uncertainty in his face.” — Philip Gefter, The New Yorker, “The Photographer Who Searched for the Humanity in Strom Thurmond,” February 12, 2017

When you are confronted with someone obdurate, you may end up feeling dour. During the encounter, you may find that you need to be durable to keep your sanity intact. Maybe you will find such situations less stressful in the future if you can face them knowing that the words obdurate, dour, during and durable are etymological cousins. All of those words trace back to the Latin adjective durus, which means “hard.” A form of this adjective can still be found in dura mater, the name for the tough fibrous material that surrounds the brain and spinal cord; it comes from a Medieval Latin phrase meaning, literally, “hard mother.”

Please submit any obdurate experiences you would like to share, any thoughts on this month’s column or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to [email protected].