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Came across the following quote:

Never try to outstubborn a cat.

Googling did not help. What does Outstubborn mean?

3
  • Stubborn is an adjective. The prefix out- takes a verb instead, in the sense used in the context. Outstubborn is not a word, but used for literary effect (― Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love goodreads.com/book/show/353.Time_Enough_for_Love ).
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:57
  • @Kris And especially outsmart uses smart as a verb. To beat opponent by feeling more pain, right?
    – macraf
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 13:15
  • @Kris: The question is not whether "outstubborn" is a word (but see my other comment). The question is what it means. Bad form on the -1.
    – RJH
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 3:20

2 Answers 2

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"Be more stubborn than" or "surpass or outdo in terms of stubbornness".

It's modeled on words like "outdo" or "outsmart".

It's not a standard word, per se, but it's a common construction. See the prefix "out-" in the dictionary.

Less common overall is the attaching of the prefix "out-" to an adjective ("stubborn"), or really anything other than a verb, which gives the construction a jocular or lowbrow quality (at least in a neologism), but the construction is understandable, and cf. "outsmart" and "outclass".

As for other adjectives used in this way, a Google search returns evidence for "outstupid", and other examples are undoubtedly available.

Your example sentence appears to have originated in Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love (1973), and the Corpus of Contemporary American English gives another instance of "outstubborn" in Linda Lael Miller's The Women of Primrose Creek (2002).

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  • -1 Please see my comment at OP.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:57
  • @Kris: See edited version. Also, see the definition of a word here and here.
    – RJH
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 3:17
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Just like outwit or outsmart M-W mean to to gain advantage over someone by being more smart, "outstubborn" would mean to be more stubborn than someone, to gain advantage by being more stubborn.

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