adjective churl·ish \ ˈchər-lish \

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





churlish was our Word of the Day on 04/12/2007. Hear the podcast!

Examples of churlish in a Sentence

  1. It would be churlish not to congratulate him.

  2. it would be churlish for any dinner guest to express anything but gratitude for his host's generous hospitality

Recent Examples of churlish from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of churlish

see churl

Synonym Discussion of 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

CHURLISH Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of churlish for English Language Learners

  • : not polite

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