Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



August 17th, 2015

Episode 290 of 681 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 17, 2015 is: refractory \rih-FRAK-tuh-ree\ adjective 1 : resisting control or authority : stubborn, unmanageable 2 : resistant to treatment or cure 3 : capable of enduring high temperatures Examples: "In patients with severe asthma that is refractory to standard treatment, intravenous magnesium sulfate is widely used." Stephen C. Lazarus, M.D., New England Journal of Medicine, August 19, 2010 "This, 2012, is Louis' moment. Rewind a couple of years and his voice was higher, his face narrower and more worried. He was connecting, but only just. Now he's expansive, authoritative, with bags of rough-edged charm. After years of small clubs and refractory crowds, Louis has experience." James Parker, The Atlantic, May 2012 Did you know? Refractory is from the Latin word refractarius. During the 17th century, it was sometimes spelled as refractary, but that spelling, though more in keeping with its Latin parent, had fallen out of use by the century's end. Refractarius, like refractory, is the result of a slight variation in spelling. It stems from the Latin verb refragari, meaning "to oppose." Although refractory often describes things that are unpleasantly stubborn or resistant (such as diseases and unruly audiences), not all senses of refractory are negative. Refractory clays and bricks, for example, are capable of withstanding high temperatures.