Simple Definition of puny
: small and weak
: not very large, impressive, or effective
Examples of puny in a sentence
I wouldn't mess with him—he makes bodybuilders look puny in comparison.
We laughed at their puny attempt to trick us.
Origin and Etymology of puny
Anglo-French puisné younger, weakly, literally, born afterward, from puis afterward + né born
First Known Use: 1593
PUNY Defined for Kids
Definition of puny for Students
1 : small and weak in size or power
2 : not very impressive or effective <My boss gave me a puny raise.>
History for 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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