What does ‘obdurate’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: obdurate…

I never thought I’d describe a novel about Alzheimer’s Disease as “sprightly” but that cheerful adjective certainly applies to Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong.

Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR Oprah Magazine, the Huffington Post and Entertainment Weekly, the novel also has the distinction of being described asstartling in its spare beauty,” by The New York Times Book Review.

I not only enjoyed the story, and the writing, but also the way the author gave me my word of the week, obdurate. Here is how she used it:

In the morning, from Bonnie’s, I make my way to Uncle John’s. He lives like an obdurate bachelor, on the same acre of land in Tehachapi where he’s lived since I was a teenager.

I guessed the word meant “hardened” from my understanding of French. (In that language, the word dure means “hard, harsh” or “tough.”) But, in fact the meaning of obdurate in English is closer to “stubborn, unyeilding” or even “pigheaded.”

Interestingly enough, the word is Latin in origin, coming from obduratus, which means “hardened.” It is the past participle of obdurare, meaning “be hard, hold out, persist, endure” etc. The root “ob-” is a Latin preposition meaning “in front of, before, in the way of, with regard.”

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