I have heard the expression intestinal fortitude to mean courage or endurance to achieve something. Is there a connotation for stubbornness in this expression?

  • You really should give us where this question came from. Did someone say something that implied stubbornness? – Jeremy Aug 18 '11 at 9:49
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    No, it's just a euphemism for guts. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intestinal%20fortitude – z7sg Ѫ Aug 18 '11 at 9:50
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    I don't think its guts exactly. It seems to be both guts (i.e. courage) and the ability to stick it out during difficult/undesirable situations. – Jeremy Aug 18 '11 at 10:05
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    @Jeremy Do you have the intestinal fortitude to expound your theory in an answer? – z7sg Ѫ Aug 18 '11 at 10:09
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    Jeremy, you're wrong. "intestinal fortitude" is precisely, exactly, indeed - literally - a funny way to say "guts". You know what "intestines" are right? z7sg is correct. – Fattie Aug 18 '11 at 14:37

As people have mentioned in the comments, intestinal fortitude can be called a euphemism for guts. Guts is defined as "fortitude and stamina in coping with what alarms, repels, or discourages", or by Google as "personal courage and determination; toughness of character".

Both definitions have some mention of tenacity - "stamina" implies an ability to go on without giving up, and "determination" implies willingness not to give up. Similarly, "stubbornness" implies a refusal to give up. Thus I think there are similarities, although "intestinal fortitude" - or "guts" - seems to include the positive side of "stubborn", and not its possible negative connotations.

As a clarification, I am not saying that "guts" connotes "stubborn", nor vice versa, but that both those words strongly connote "tenacity", and in that way there is a link between them.

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  • @z7sg: I was going to do that... Is there really a limit on the links according to reputation? – Alenanno Aug 18 '11 at 11:33
  • @Alenannon At 10 rep there is, I thought it was one link, though he posted two somehow! – z7sg Ѫ Aug 18 '11 at 11:39
  • Thanks for the answer. I like 'tenacity' in your explanation, I think it fits well with what I was expecting. – 719016 Aug 18 '11 at 11:56
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    You say ""stubbornness" implies a refusal to give up" - that is simply not correct. Stubborn is a refusal to change. It's that simple. If you have guts, you can take part in fist-fights, eat nails, etc. Really there's no relationship to stubbornness. – Fattie Aug 18 '11 at 14:37
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    @Joe Blow Additionally, "implies" doesn't mean the same as "means". A "refusal to change" would imply a "refusal to give up" a course of action, since giving up would be a change. – Samthere Aug 18 '11 at 15:28

I would say the answer is simply "no".

Stubborn quite simply means someone who won't change their mind.

(Or indeed, something like say a piece of metal you have to machine could be "stubborn" - hard to change it's shape.)

This quality, stubborn, has nothing to do with "having guts" - like Tom Cruise or John Wayne. If you have guts, you can crawl through swamps, fight nazis, etc.

There's really no relation to "stubborn".

Particularly if the questioner is a non-English speaker, wondering what the phrase means, it's a shame to confuse the questioner.

Quite simply, "intestinal fortitude" is a humorous alternate way to say the slang term "guts". (Like, a street fighter, etc.) No real connection to stubborn.

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There's more to it, I think... "guts"is a reference to the intestines, which run from the pyloris (at the end of the stomach) to the anus, and, "guts" also is a euphemism for "toughness" or "courage".

The phrase, "intestinal fortitude" takes this one step further, with implications of tenacity and toughness under fire - in dangerous situations, people can lose their nerve, turn tail and run, and in so doing, their fear can even cause them to lose control of their anal sphincter, with the expected result. Someone with "intestinal fortitude" has mastered their fear instinct AND their sphincter, and when the going gets tough, they have the self control to override their animal instinct to **** themselves and run away, and so can stand their ground and prevail.

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Tasks that are difficult and unpleasant are sometimes said to be "stomach churning," that is making people want to throw up.

People that can performing "stomach churning" task without giving up, and without throwing up, are said to have intestinal fortitude.

I wouldn't characterize this as "stubbornness," but possibly as "perseverance."

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