1Originally: to kick out, to kick backwards. Later in extended use: to show vigorous opposition or resistance; to be obstinately disobedient or refractory.
2With against or at.
Early 17th century; earliest use found in William Vaughan (c1575–1641), writer and promoter of colonization in Newfoundland. From classical Latin recalcitrāt-, past participial stem of recalcitrāre to kick out (Horace), to be refractory (Vetus Latina, Vulgate) from re- + calcitrāre.