churl·​ish | \ ˈchər-lish How to pronounce churlish (audio) \

Definition of churlish

1 : of, resembling, or characteristic of a churl : vulgar
2 : marked by a lack of civility or graciousness : surly he didn't like the churlish tone in his voice— Margaret Truman outrage is among your more churlish emotions— Robert Goldsborough It would be churlish not to congratulate her.
3 : difficult to work with or deal with : intractable churlish soil

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Other Words from churlish

churlishly adverb
churlishness noun

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

The History of Churlish Goes Back to Anglo-Saxon England

It is easy to understand how "churlish" has come to mean "vulgar," "surly," and "intractable" if you know your English history. In Anglo-Saxon England a churl, or ceorl, was a freeman of the lowest rank who owned and cultivated a small farm. He had certain rights and had the upward mobility to rise to the rank of thane. After the Norman Conquest, however, many churls became serfs, and the word churl eventually came to be used as a pejorative for a rude, ill-bred person.

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 Mom is a lovely person who seemed not to see her child was often churlish and badly behaved. Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax: Be open and supportive with friend whose child is involved in scandal," 26 Oct. 2019 And don't assume social-media stupidity is the sole province of churlish, badly behaved children; each new communication platform is gas on the fire of an adolescent prefrontal cortex. Carolyn Hax, oregonlive, "Carolyn Hax: How do we get out of dining with in-laws who are rude to the staff?," 25 Oct. 2019 The witty one-liner illustrates the frustration many of us feel about the president’s churlish Twittery, the denigration of the press, the disparagement of expertise, and the ubiquity of phony facts on the internet. Krista Kafer, The Denver Post, "Kafer: The internet has changed our lives for the better too," 25 Oct. 2019 Mom is a lovely person who seemed not to see her child was often churlish and badly behaved. Carolyn Hax, oregonlive, "Carolyn Hax: How do we get out of dining with in-laws who are rude to the staff?," 25 Oct. 2019 As ambitious Jim heads east, Ántonia is a disgraced, unmarried mother drudging on the farm for a churlish brother. Robert Garnett, WSJ, "Rooted in America’s Heartland," 14 Sep. 2018 How are folks supposed to account for the entire audience to be caught up without hearing from the churlish that an innocent post ruined their enjoyment? Judith Martin, The Mercury News, "Miss Manners: I hate this new rule about posting spoilers," 9 Aug. 2019 Under the influence of testosterone and the spell of transgression, ROGD daughters grow churlish and aggressive. Abigail Shrier, WSJ, "When Your Daughter Defies Biology," 6 Jan. 2019 But 41 Republicans voted against the measure, which was similar to the president’s January proposal except for its more churlish treatment of Dreamers (Trump provided a path to citizenship for Dreamers, Goodlatte just offered a visa). Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "For House GOP, One Doomed Immigration Bill Down, One to Go," 21 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of churlish

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

History and Etymology for churlish

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

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

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Last Updated

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Churlish.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for churlish


How to pronounce churlish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of churlish

formal : not polite

More from Merriam-Webster on churlish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for churlish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with churlish

Comments on churlish

What made you want to look up churlish? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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