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adjective pu·ny \ˈpyü-nē\

: small and weak

: not very large, impressive, or effective


Full Definition of PUNY

:  slight or inferior in power, size, or importance :  weak
pu·ni·ly \ˈpyü-nə-lē\ adverb
pu·ni·ness \ˈpyü-nē-nəs\ noun

Examples of PUNY

  1. I wouldn't mess with him—he makes bodybuilders look puny in comparison.
  2. We laughed at their puny attempt to trick us.

Origin of PUNY

Anglo-French puisné younger, weakly, literally, born afterward, from puis afterward + born
First Known Use: 1593

Related to PUNY

bantam, diminutive, dinky, dwarfish, fine, half-pint, Lilliputian, little, pint-size (or pint-sized), pocket, pocket-size (also pocket-sized), small, pygmy, shrimpy, slight, smallish, subnormal, toylike, undersized (also undersize)
big, biggish, considerable, goodly, grand, great, handsome, husky, king-size (or king-sized), large, largish, outsize (also outsized), overscale (or overscaled), oversize (or oversized), sizable (or sizeable), substantial, tidy, whacking, whopping
PUNIER Defined for Kids


adjective pu·ny \ˈpyü-nē\

Definition of PUNY for Kids

:  small and weak in size or power
:  not very impressive or effective <My boss gave me a puny raise.>

Word History of PUNY

In medieval French puisné, literally, born afterward, was used to mean younger when talking about two people. Borrowed into English, puisne and the phonetic spelling puny came to be used of anyone in a position of less importance than another. By the time of the playwright William Shakespeare puny no longer suggested relative rank, but had come to mean weak or feeble—a meaning the word retains today.


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