Stubborn, interestingly, has the shortest etymology of all of the Daily Post’s prompt words that I’ve written about thus far: the earliest mention of it that is found is in Middle English, where it is in the form stiborn. There isn’t much more to say on the subject.

As for stubborness itself, it is a rather interesting concept. The word itself has negative connotations, whereas something like persistence is viewed far more positively. And like many other similar pairs of words, there is always a debate around where the positive persistence turns into the negative stubborness.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the fact that to say that someone is “stubborn” about something is to imply that they are ignoring good reasons to change their behaviour; however that is a rather artificial division as what may seem as a good reason for one person is not necessarily the same case for another.

A more cynically disposed person may argue that it is not reality which defines whether a person is stubborn or persistent, but the view generally held of the person by others. Anything from a newspaper article to a textbook (although they often try to be objective) will use either term depending on whether they wish to portray a character in a positive or negative light. The two words are just another example of how the pen may be mightier than the sword.

But what of the etymology of “persistent”?

The adjective appeared in the 18th century, whereas the noun persistence was around a little longer, since the 16th. It originated from Middle French persistance, which in turn came from the Latin persistens.


Diligentia et cervicatas asinum et doctum definient.



One thought on “Stubbornness and Persistence: Etymological Discourse

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