How does refractory make sense? On etymonline.com, refract, when broken down into its etymons, means:

"to bend" (light, sound, heat, etc.), 1610s, back-formation from refraction, and in part from Latin refractus, past participle of refringere "to break up," from re- "back" (see re-) + combining form of frangere "to break" (from PIE root *bhreg- "to break"). Related: Refracted; refracting.

Refractory on the other hand just means stubborn. Can someone explain to me the semantic links between the two?


refractory (adj.):

  • "stubborn, obstinate, perverse," 1610s (earlier refractorious, 1550s, refractary, c. 1600), from Latin refractarius "obstinate, stubborn," from past participle stem of refringere (see refraction).


According to the following source refractory, derives its meaning of stubborn, obstinate from the idea of breaking up all attempts to obey in an obstinate way:

  • (Of arguments, the force of which cannot be broken back ; of irresistible or incontrovertible arguments.) Given -to-break-back (refractory.) Abstr. subst. from refractory (refractoriness.) What does refractory means? It is used of one who breaks back all attempts to make him obey, obstinately diobedient.

From : Spelling Turned Etymology

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