I'm developing a novel, and I'm having a hard time describing a major characteristic of the main character. We'll call him Dan for the moment.

There was another person (we'll call him/her "Francis" for now), who did something bad to Dan. Dan cannot forgive Francis for this action. Time has gone by, and Francis has apologized for the action, and is ready to make up. Dan however, remains stubbornly holding onto his ___. That's the word I need. 'Unforgivingness'.

It's more than simply not forgiving someone. It's more active than that; more like staying angry at them when you know it's over. Essentially the opposite of 'forgiveness'. Forgiveness means the 'act of forgiving', so the word I'm looking for would mean the 'act of consciously refusing to forgive someone'.

Example sentence:

"You drove them away, through your own ___ (unwillingness to forgive them)."

Is there a single word for this I can use?

  • 1
    Unwillingness to forgive is a state, rather than an event (though it may of course trigger events). / Hard-heartedness is a hypernym here. As is inclemency. Oct 17, 2016 at 19:55
  • 2
    "I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself. . . . My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever." (Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; emphasis added)
    – 1006a
    Oct 17, 2016 at 20:07
  • If the lack of forgiveness is more due to stubbornness than to the lack of capacity for forgiveness, then perhaps intransigence could be used here.
    – Hank D
    Oct 17, 2016 at 20:31
  • 1
    Not pigheaded or obstinate?
    – stevesliva
    Oct 17, 2016 at 21:21
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth - that's why pigheaded was first. It's basically one word that takes obstinate and makes it hyperbolic. Being pigheaded is being, stupidly, stubbornly obstinate. I like it for the second example sentence, not the first. Unfortunately, I think we're looking for a noun to pair with the adjective, and pigheadedness is awkward. Obstinence has a nice ring to it.
    – stevesliva
    Oct 18, 2016 at 13:41

9 Answers 9


The word that comes to my mind for literally referring to being incapable to forgive is implacability, the quality of being impossible to placate or unable to be appeased.

But in your first sentence, I'd go with resentment and in the second, implacability:

Dan however, remains stubbornly holding onto his resentment.

You drove them away, through your own implacability.


Not a property of Dan, so not exactly what you are asking for, but you might be able to use "grudge":

...stubbornly holding onto his grudge.


Why not simply "unforgiving"?

As in, "Dan, however, remains unforgiving."

  • I need a noun though. I'm fairly certain that's an adjective as it's used. I need a word that could fit in my example sentence. Oct 17, 2016 at 22:09
  • 1
    @ThomasMyron: Merriam-Webster offers unforgivingness as the noun form.
    – jxh
    Oct 17, 2016 at 23:35
  • Fair enough, I guess. In my experience, though, if there isn't a specific word to fit the precise context desired, or the word is extremely obscure or archaic, it can be an indication that the existing sentence is awkward, and could probably stand to be re-worded to enhance readability and understanding.
    – Dr H
    Oct 19, 2016 at 0:01





: having or showing a desire to hurt someone who has hurt or caused problems for you

  • Close, but Dan isn't really trying to hurt Francis. He just refuses to forgive Francis. Oct 18, 2016 at 0:09
  • That's only if you construe the word HURT as being restricted to physical harm. What about the emotional imbalance and mental torture you get from knowing that your friend, with whom you had a disagreement and to whom you have made several reconciliatory propositions, has refused to hand out the olive branch?. I will be HURT if my Bosom friend refuses to forgive me in spite of my frenetic efforts at making up. Cheers.
    – user200193
    Oct 18, 2016 at 6:25
  • Sure, Dan's actions might cause hurt, but that's not his intention. That's not why he's not forgiving. There is a different reason entirely. Vindictive indicates that he's not forgiving simply to hurt the other person. At least to me. Oct 18, 2016 at 6:33
  • I like your line of thought. It is intellectually stimulating.
    – user200193
    Oct 18, 2016 at 6:38
  • 1
    This is obviously copied from somewhere. Please add an attribution in plain text (with a link if possible).
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 30, 2018 at 20:59

Blame or grudge may be fitting. Hard heartedness can stop the reciprocol healing process of forgiveness. He has basically judged Dan not worthy of forgiveness at this time.


Unappeasable is the single word.

Someone who us unforgiving is unappeasable. She or he can not be appeased, and as such, can not forgive.

Both are states if being.

  • This would be improved by including a dictionary reference. Mar 10, 2020 at 15:13

"Unforgiving" seems like a perfect fit for me. It is easily understood and conveys your desired meaning.


adjective If you describe someone as unforgiving, you mean that they are unwilling to forgive other people. [formal] He was an unforgiving man who never forgot a slight. He finds human foibles endearing, but is unforgiving of pretension


hard-heartedness MW Dict

lacking in sympathetic understanding : unfeeling, pitiless

Or just plain OBSTINATE!


Synonyms: relentless, inexorable, stern, unrelenting, grim, unappeasable. Antonyms: tolerant, forgiving, kind, placable, unvindictive. grim, inexorable, relentless, stern, unappeasable, unforgiving, unrelenting(adj)

  • 1
    Several of these are in other answers and several are not suitable as answers. Mar 10, 2020 at 14:47
  • And all are taken from an unlinked, unattributed source. Mar 10, 2020 at 15:01

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