I saw the former for the first time today, but I noticed its definition seems exactly like the latter. Is there something I'm missing or are the two just pure synonyms?

  • 2
    You could try a few more dictionaries, until you perceive a difference. Obdurate carries a sense of hardened; thus an older person may be hardened, or obdurate, but a child can be obstinate without being obdurate.
    – Xanne
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 4:49
  • Maybe obstinate has more negative connotations? Is obdurate more likely to be used of someone standing fast for good reason, and obstinate someone standing fast just to be awkward? Although that could just be because obstinate is more commonly used of a child. And this is connected to Xanne's answer: obstinate is being obstructive for no reason, obdurate has a reason (character, a hard skin, toughness, standing fast for what you believe).
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 19:51
  • 1
    The roots actually give a good account. Dur- has to do with perseverance over time: endure, duration, durable, during, hence toughness. Sta-, on the other hand, has to do with standing rigid: stand, stable, staff, stamen, more a matter of internal rigidity than external toughness. The ob- is the same in each case, 'against'. Commented May 12, 2021 at 19:59
  • I found the explanation here pretty enlightening, based on the latin roots of the two words.
    – Brandon
    Commented Mar 22, 2023 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


Stubborn - A tendency of disposition to persist in an opinion, belief, decision, or course of action, generally with more force than reason.

Obstinate - A particular instance of stubborn behavior.

Dick had always been a stubborn boy, but he was particularly obstinate in his dislike of homework.

Obdurate - A hard and unyielding attitude of a harsh and unfeeling character.

The foreman was obdurate in holding to rigid production schedules.

Source: Choose the Right Word, by S.I. Hayakawa

Note: I had looked up this same cluster of synonyms in the past with Webster's dictionary of synonyms and found the same explanatory distinctions.

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