can·​tan·​ker·​ous | \ kan-ˈtaŋ-k(ə-)rəs How to pronounce cantankerous (audio) , kən- \

Definition of cantankerous

: difficult or irritating to deal with a cantankerous mule

Other Words from cantankerous

cantankerously adverb
cantankerousness noun

The Origin of Cantankerous Is Mysterious

Cantankerous people are cranky: they’re grumpy and angry and if we think charitably about them for a moment we might consider that they possibly suffer from a health affliction that sours the mood. It’s been speculated that cantankerous is a product of the Middle English contack, meaning “contention,” under the influence of a pair of words: rancorous and cankerous. Rancorous brings the anger and "bitter deep-seated ill will" (as rancor can be understood to mean). And cankerous brings the perhaps understandable foul mood: a cankerous person suffers from painful sores—that is, cankers.

Examples of cantankerous in a Sentence

Contemporaries often found him aloof, standoffish, and cantankerous and his mannerisms and diction inscrutable. — Jonathan Spence, New York Review of Books, 22 Oct. 2009 There are those who contend the hockey maven is a cantankerous old coot—rife with unpopular opinions and quick to assert them — Rick Harrison, Newsday, 19 Sept. 2004 … it's something ultimately more memorable: a self-portrait of a coolly cantankerous woman, reformed but unrepentant. — David Gates, New York Times Book Review, 21 Nov. 1999 In his last years, Harriman was the kind of cantankerous old man who once berated a financial planner by threatening to make him sit in the corner and wear a dunce cap. — Bryan Burrough, Vanity Fair, January 1995 a cantankerous old woman who insisted that nothing should ever be allowed to change
Recent Examples on the Web It’s a tell-all that settles old accounts and names names, a cantankerous lament over Lurie’s many existential and terrestrial irritations. Cintra Wilson, The New York Review of Books, 3 Aug. 2022 From his early days as a straitlaced funnyman to his later years as a cantankerous observer of modern culture, Carlin’s comedy career is like no other. Tyler Coates, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 July 2022 Rick’s cantankerous attitude and skepticism toward the Pong Pha residents’ traditions are aggravating factors. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 July 2022 Both are led by the cantankerous elderly Mr. Kim (played by David Shih) who runs a convenience store in downtown Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood. Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant, 14 July 2022 This time, their cantankerous co-op board president, Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), is the victim, and our oddball heroes are prime suspects. Los Angeles Times, 6 July 2022 The indestructible Clint Eastwood, who boasts of the longest career of any major Hollywood star in history, hit it big in 1964 but by 1986 was playing a cantankerous old gunnery sergeant in Heartbreak Ridge and ... Kyle Smith, National Review, 1 June 2022 Not surprisingly, given his cantankerous nature, Bulger turned out to be a pain in the neck for US Bureau of Prison officials, who moved him from Arizona to Florida. Kevin Cullen,, 19 May 2022 But the low pay, mixed with cantankerous administrators and demanding parents who frequently emailed her with suggestions on how to improve her teaching, had created an impossible dynamic. Stephen Noonoo, The New Republic, 2 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cantankerous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cantankerous

1772, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cantankerous

perhaps irregular from obsolete contack contention

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The first known use of cantankerous was in 1772

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cantankerous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for cantankerous


can·​tan·​ker·​ous | \ kan-ˈtaŋ-kə-rəs How to pronounce cantankerous (audio) \

Kids Definition of cantankerous

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Nglish: Translation of cantankerous for Spanish Speakers


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