Definition of refractory in English:



  • 1Stubborn or unmanageable.

    ‘his refractory pony’
    • ‘In his reply, Mr Goggins said: ‘Special accommodation may only be used for the temporary confinement of a violent or refractory prisoner, and not as punishment.’’
    • ‘Kippenberger, even at his most refractory, is an artist of energy, sharp insight, great skill and considerable integrity.’
    • ‘Threats of the same treatment prevented refractory congregations from using disused churches they had hired for private worship.’
    • ‘Capulet's attitude to his refractory daughter is precisely that of my Muslim patients' fathers.’
    obstinate, stubborn, stubborn as a mule, mulish, bull-headed, pig-headed, obdurate, headstrong, self-willed, wayward, wilful, perverse, contrary, recalcitrant, obstreperous, disobedient, insubordinate, rebellious, mutinous, defiant, stiff-necked, intractable, intransigent, unyielding, unmalleable, unmanageable, ungovernable, unpersuadable
    bloody-minded, bolshie, stroppy
    contumacious, froward
    View synonyms
  • 2Resistant to a process or stimulus.

    ‘some granules are refractory to secretory stimuli’
    • ‘However, the BAC-based approach is more efficient for resolving sequencing anomalies and for determining the sequence of regions that are refractory to DNA sequencing, such as regions high in G + C content.’
    • ‘Seven insertions were located in the retrotransposon array, indicating that the terminal array is not refractory to P-element integrations.’
    • ‘Thus, rather than being refractory to conversion, large heterologies converted as often, or more often, than equidistant small heterologies.’
    • ‘It is not known why P-GUS in line 19 was refractory to FLP activity.’
    • ‘This, in turn, renders cells refractory to subsequent infection by the same or other viruses that use the CD4 receptor for entry; thus creating a state of super-infection immunity.’
    • ‘The reason is that the traits of interest, hybrid sterility and inviability, are by their very nature barriers to crossing and thus are refractory to standard genetic approaches.’
    • ‘When stimulated after the refractory phase (2 s after the spontaneous reversal or later), the cells responded within ~ 2 s to the stimulus.’
    • ‘Although two additional histidine residues are potentially accessible, we focused on the two histidines unique to cx 50 because cx 46 hemichannels were refractory to modification by DEPC.’
    • ‘In all cases with exogenous DNA inserted into the SalI, SphI, or ClaI site, we find that genomic insertions are largely refractory to mobilization by the active Mos1 transposase.’
    • ‘Centromeric DNA, being highly repetitive, has been refractory to molecular analysis.’
    • ‘In WS, the three PAI loci are highly refractory to cleavage by either HpaII or MspI, diagnostic of dense CG and CCG methylation of the recognition site.’
    • ‘Furthermore the labeling of the MBP-SEC preparation was refractory to PNGase F, which hydrolyzes N - but not O-linkages.’
    • ‘At the time-point of stimulation, the cells had recovered from the refractory phase and were fully responsive, whereas nearly none of the cells had reversed spontaneously.’
    • ‘However, Model 4 cannot reproduce the cellular response to sensory stimuli during the refractory phase of the flagellar motor, because this functional phase was deliberately neglected for a first estimate.’
    1. 2.1Medicine (of a person, illness, or diseased tissue) not yielding to treatment.
      ‘healing of previously refractory ulcers’
      • ‘Because bioreductive drugs are activated to form highly effective cytotoxins under hypoxic conditions, they can be used to inactivate hypoxic tumor cells that are refractory to the direct cytotoxicity of hypericin-PDT.’
      • ‘Caspofungin is a Protocol Drug at UIHC and may only be used in patients who are refractory to or intolerant of amphotericin B or amphotericin B lipid complex, or by recommendation of Infectious Diseases Division consult.’
      • ‘The intravenous and oral formulations are used for the treatment of aspergillosis in patients who are intolerant of or who are refractory to amphotericin B therapy.’
      • ‘Within two minutes of cardiac arrest, approximately two thirds of patients develop ventricular fibrillation, but the rhythm becomes increasingly refractory to defibrillation over time.’
      • ‘Thus far, these patients have proved relatively refractory to potential therapies interfering with individual molecules.’
    2. 2.2Medicine rare (of a person or animal) resistant to infection.
      • ‘The propagative stages of the nematode occur exclusively in adult male crickets; thus adult females crickets are refractory to infection.’
      • ‘However, this first requires expression of Nef in a resting T cell that is refractory to infection.’
    3. 2.3technical (of a substance) resistant to heat; hard to melt or fuse.
      • ‘Mr Mills said KCM had for the past year been carrying out tests to determine the economic value of the dumped refractory ores in an effort to recover and process the hundreds of tonnes of copper.’
      • ‘Such refractory materials as silicon dioxide and aluminum oxide are so severely attacked that their use is hazardous.’
      • ‘The steel structure of the kiln is protected from the extreme process heat by a refractory lining.’
      • ‘Some compounds of hafnium are also used as refractory substances to line the inside of high-temperature ovens.’
      • ‘Also under investigation as possible container materials are certain types of refractory ceramics.’


  • A substance that is resistant to heat.

    • ‘Graphite is also used as a refractory in high-temperature furnaces, to make black paint, in explosives and matches, and in certain kinds of cathode ray tubes.’
    • ‘From the point of view of catastrophic fracture, the most important and interesting of the nonferrous metals are the BCC refractories, high strength aluminum alloys and the HCP metals, magnesium, beryllium, and titanium.’
    • ‘All three minerals alter to shimmer aggregates of sericite; all three are used in the preparation of refractories.’
    • ‘Oxides are formed by direct oxidation in air, by reaction with water vapor, or by aluminothermic reaction with oxides of other metals, such as iron or silicon, contained in tools and refractories.’
    • ‘The reactivity to the metalloids, especially the metal oxides, has been extremely disturbing to the foundryman since molten titanium severely attacks most of the known refractories to form metal-metalloid systems.’


Early 17th century: alteration of obsolete refractary, from Latin refractarius stubborn (see also refract).