I can read the dictionary definitions myself, of course:


Someone who is strong-minded is determined and unwilling to change their opinions and beliefs:

You'll have to be strong-minded if you're going to push the changes through.


very determined to do what you want without listening to others:

She was a headstrong child, always getting into trouble.

So from these, headstrong has a more negative connotation, more or less meaning stubborn in inappropriate circumstances, whereas strong-minded might mean tenacity in general, perhaps with positive tint. Is this a good summary of the distinction, or am I inferring too much from these definitions and the terms are more liberally interchangeable in common discourse?

N.B. If google is not mistaken, 'strong-minded' sees less usage than 'headstrong' (or 'strong-willed' nowadays), perhaps because 'strong-minded' is more ambiguous.

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But simply looking at n-grams doesn't help with context.

  • 4
    You have it right, IMO. Headstrong is often used as a slightly less offensive characterization than "stubborn". I see "strong-minded" as either being a compliment or a carefully ambiguous put-down - depending on who is saying it and under what circumstances. Dec 19, 2017 at 15:45
  • 1
    What @KristinaLopez said. Think head, as in head-butting, versus mind.
    – Drew
    Dec 19, 2017 at 16:35
  • They overlap and strong-minded to me suggests determination, irrelevant to motivation: (google.co.uk/…) Headstrong suggests determination equivalent to motivation (google.co.uk/…) Dec 20, 2017 at 18:44
  • Note that the Ngram results do not compare the frequency of occurrence of 'headstrong', 'strong-willed', and 'strong-minded', but rather the frequency of occurrence of 'headstrong', 'strong - willed', and 'strong - minded'. That's why the Ngram graph results include the labels 'Replaced strong-minded with [strong - minded] to match how we processed the books.' ...
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 14 at 21:16
  • ... and 'Replaced strong-willed with [strong - willed] to match how we processed the books.' And it's why there are links to matches for 'headstrong' across the specified date range, but no links to matches for 'strong-minded' and 'strong-willed'. In short, Ngram can't provide meaningful frequency results for hyphenated terms, and the results shown in the chart above are therefore unintelligible if not altogether meaningless.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 14 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


Strong minded means to have strong mind about a particular thing. For example, your mum asks you to drop the money you are holding down but because of your strong mind you will not put it down. While headstrong is when you want to do what is in your mind and nobody can stop you.

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  • If you can link to a source that strong-minded is more of a compliment, and headstrong more of an insult, you have a solid first answer. You could even go for "When it's a man, he's called strong-minded. Woman? Headstrong." Mar 14 at 22:39

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