Definition: Very stubborn.
This term can appear either with or without a hyphen, pigheaded or pig-headed. The hyphenated form was favored up until the latter half of the 1900s, when the non-hyphenated form surpassed it.
Nowadays, both forms are almost equally common.
Origin of Pigheaded
This term dates back to the 1600s. Synonyms include bullheaded and mullish. All three of these terms have one thing in common: they all reference animals that people popularly believe to be stubborn.
It is unclear why people think of pigs as stubborn animals. One source speculates that the more intelligent an animal is, the more likely people will call that animal stubborn. Scientists have shown pigs to be very smart. Other sources say that the stubborn label more likely comes from the fact that pigs often won’t move or relocate where people want them to move.
Because pig is an offensive term for a person, pigheaded is also not a polite way to call someone stubborn. Pigheaded has the connotation of implying the person is stupid as well as obstinate. Therefore, it is insulting to say this to someone.
More polite terms would be strong willed, unyielding, or headstrong. However, these polite terms do not preserve the connotation of stupid.
Examples of Pigheaded
This example shows two coworkers who are discussing how to decorate for the office party.
Regina: I think we should have a color scheme for the party. I’d like to choose the color green.
Ginny: No, that will make it seem like a Saint Patrick’s party.
Regina: Well, I’ve been decorating for office parties for years, and no one has ever complained.
Ginny: But you haven’t listened to a single one of my ideas! You only do what you want to do. I wish you weren’t so pigheaded!
Reggie: How rude! I don’t enjoy working with you either!
In this example, two friends are talking about their parents.
Kevin: My parents are so disappointed that I became a history professor instead of a doctor.
Steve: My parents are upset about my chosen career as well. In fact, they are so pigheaded about it that they still try to convince me to change careers every time I see them!
This excerpt compares one TV character to another.
- Ray has been characterized as an Irish-American Tony Soprano in Los Angeles. But that’s too easy. He’s smoother, less pig-headed, in sharp suits. He’s Liev Schreiber, for heaven’s sakes! –Denver Post
This excerpt is from an article about a TV show.
- That showed him that life is precious and must be protected at all costs. “Even a life as pig-headed as a Winchester’s!” Sam gasps out that his life isn’t worth any more than anyone else’s. –Houston Chronicle
The term pigheaded is a synonym for obstinate.