Definition of cantankerous
: difficult or irritating to deal with a cantankerous mule
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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 of cantankerous from the Web
But this was just the beginning of a long, cantankerous journey.
Hollywood legend Lansbury tackles the role of cantankerous Aunt March.
Instead, the famously cantankerous President is laying low as his Republican colleagues in the Senate work furiously to strike a deal on a bill to repeal Obamacare.
Cantankerous and completely unable to handle a smart, savvy, attractive black woman being a peer in the good-old-boys club of the US Senate.
His shenanigans often irked players — in 1979 Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella threw his glove and screamed at the cantankerous chicken on the way out to his defensive position during a loss in Seattle — and paved the way for copycats.
Several of Mr. Breslin’s family members, former colleagues and friends said the photo opportunity, near the Daily News building, would have been something the cantankerous columnist and advocate of ordinary New Yorkers would have skewered.
The portrait of the father, a cantankerous yet loving Hungarian Jewish refugee from World War II, is one of the surprise pleasures of the book.
Jim Bunning, the Hall of Fame pitcher who threw a perfect game and later forged a second career as a fervently conservative and often cantankerous Republican representative and senator from Kentucky, died on Friday in the Fort Thomas, Ky., area.
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.
The Origin of cantankerous Is Mysterious
It's irritating, but we're not absolutely sure where "cantankerous" comes from. Etymologists think it probably derived from the Middle English word contack (or "contek"), which meant "contention" or "strife." Their idea is that "cantankerous" may have started out as "contackerous" but was later modified as a result of association or confusion with "rancorous" (meaning "spiteful") and "cankerous" (which describes something that spreads corruption of the mind or spirit). Considering that a cantankerous person generally has the spite associated with "contack" and "rancor," and the noxious and sometimes painful effects of a "canker," that theory seems plausible. What we can say with conviction is that "cantankerous" has been used in English since at least the late 1700s.
Origin and Etymology of cantankerous
perhaps irregular from obsolete contack contention
First Known Use: 1772See Words from the same year
CANTANKEROUS Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of cantankerous for English Language Learners
: often angry and annoyed
CANTANKEROUS Defined for Kids
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