churl·​ish ˈchər-lish How to pronounce churlish (audio)
: of, resembling, or characteristic of a churl : vulgar
: marked by a lack of civility or graciousness : surly
he didn't like the churlish tone in his voiceMargaret Truman
outrage is among your more churlish emotionsRobert Goldsborough
It would be churlish not to congratulate her.
: difficult to work with or deal with : intractable
churlish soil
churlishly adverb
churlishness noun

Did you know?

The History of Churlish Goes Back to Anglo-Saxon England

In Old English, the word ceorl referred to a free peasant—someone who was neither part of the nobility nor enslaved or in debt. In Anglo-Saxon England, which lasted roughly from the 5th to 11th centuries, ceorls had many rights that peasants of lower social status did not, and a few even rose to the rank of thane. However, as most ceorls were driven into the class of unfree villeins over the centuries, especially following the Norman Conquest, the connotation of the word ceorl—spelled cherl in Middle English and then finally churl—diminished as well, eventually coming to mean “a lowly peasant” and later “a rude, ill-bred person.” Similarly, churlish began in the form ceorlisc in Old English as a simple descriptor of someone with the rank of ceorl, but today it describes a boorish person, or their rude and insensitive behavior.

Choose the Right Synonym for churlish

boorish, churlish, loutish, clownish mean uncouth in manners or appearance.

boorish implies rudeness of manner due to insensitiveness to others' feelings and unwillingness to be agreeable.

a drunk's boorish behavior

churlish suggests surliness, unresponsiveness, and ungraciousness.

churlish remarks

loutish implies bodily awkwardness together with stupidity.

a loutish oaf

clownish suggests ill-bred awkwardness, ignorance or stupidity, ungainliness, and often a propensity for absurd antics.

an adolescent's clownish conduct

Examples of churlish in a Sentence

It would be churlish not to congratulate him. it would be churlish for any dinner guest to express anything but gratitude for his host's generous hospitality
Recent Examples on the Web And churlish is exactly how Trump wants to portray him. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 19 Jan. 2024 In fact, one of the clips from Trump’s speech on Saturday which got the most coverage was his mockery of Biden’s stutter: a churlish—and, no doubt, premeditated—slur. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, 14 Mar. 2024 Players might be more accepting of dressing in a crowded locker room or answering questions on behalf of a player who speaks infrequently if the responsible party is someone like Ohtani than, say, the notoriously churlish Bonds. Dylan Hernández, Los Angeles Times, 15 Feb. 2024 The victor certainly isn’t Capote, who dissipates the good will of his ex-boyfriend Jack Dunphy (Joe Mantello) with his descent into alcoholism and deliberately courts beatings from his churlish lover John O’Shea (Russell Tovey) with his sharp tongue. Inkoo Kang, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2024 Her daughter is described in stark extremes: a once-cherubic infant who’s now a churlish adolescent bent on self-destruction. Naomi Huffman, The Atlantic, 22 Jan. 2024 In these circumstances, Kaplan just seems churlish in denying a brief, compassionate adjournment request — even if he is privately convinced that Trump is playing games. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 19 Jan. 2024 Some were these churlish rock records, others hootenanny folk records, bluegrass/country standards with Mac Wiseman. Chris Willman, Variety, 10 Oct. 2023 In the aftermath of the election, Jimmy Carter, who had monitored it, at times seemed churlish about Chamorro’s victory. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 14 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'churlish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English cherlyssh "of churls, rustic, uncouth," going back to Old English ceorlisc, cyrlisc, from ceorl "male person, countryman, member of the lowest class of free men" + -isc -ish — more at churl

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of churlish was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near churlish

Cite this Entry

“Churlish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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