Tenacious or Stubborn?

In the past week, three friends (lovingly) referred to me as stubborn. I (stubbornly) disagreed, saying that I was instead, tenacious – which of course led to a debate as to whether the two words actually mean the same thing.

The New Oxford American Dictionary and Merriam-Webster both list the words as synonyms of each other. Pfft. What do they know? I propose that there is a rather important and distinct difference between the two. Since I spend my days searching for exactly the right word to convey my meaning (a Sisyphean task if there ever was one), I figured this warranted a blog post.

To be stubborn, is to dig one’s heels in and refuse to move. When we say that a person is stubborn, we mean that he refuses to do something, or change his mind about something. So, stubbornness is characterized by a lack of action.

However, tenacity (in my humble opinion) implies the exact opposite. When we say that a person is tenacious, we mean that he is going after something with single-minded determination.

So while I stubbornly refuse to eat Turr (no matter how many times my father offers it to me), I am pursuing my career as an author with tenacity (actively finding solutions to each of the obstacles I encounter).

Have I convinced you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below! :)

Now, for having humoured me and my little rant, I reward you with this: The History of English, in Ten Minutes (it’s pretty funny!) Enjoy!