crab·​bed ˈkra-bəd How to pronounce crabbed (audio)
: marked by a forbidding moroseness
a crabbed view of human nature
: difficult to read or understand
crabbed handwriting
crabbedness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for crabbed

sullen, glum, morose, surly, sulky, crabbed, saturnine, gloomy mean showing a forbidding or disagreeable mood.

sullen implies a silent ill humor and a refusal to be sociable.

remained sullen amid the festivities

glum suggests a silent dispiritedness.

a glum candidate left to ponder a stunning defeat

morose adds to glum an element of bitterness or misanthropy.

morose job seekers who are inured to rejection

surly implies gruffness and sullenness of speech or manner.

a typical surly teenager

sulky suggests childish resentment expressed in peevish sullenness.

grew sulky after every spat

crabbed applies to a forbidding morose harshness of manner.

the school's notoriously crabbed headmaster

saturnine describes a heavy forbidding aspect or suggests a bitter disposition.

a saturnine cynic always finding fault

gloomy implies a depression in mood making for seeming sullenness or glumness.

a gloomy mood ushered in by bad news

Examples of crabbed in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Tár, though, displays little more than crabbed irritability and self-serving cynicism. Justin Davidson, Vulture, 11 Oct. 2022 This is a truly crabbed and reductive view of the man and his work. Los Angeles Times, 15 Apr. 2021 Guston’s searingly funny caricatures of Richard M. Nixon and his corrupt White House cronies, drawn mostly in short, crabbed lines, have been exhibited only twice before — once in Manhattan (2016) and once in London (2017). Los Angeles Times, 9 Oct. 2019 No one can accuse this Court of having a crabbed view of the reach of its competence. WSJ, 27 June 2019 The core error here is the Texas Supreme Court’s crabbed understanding of Obergefell. Dale Carpenter, Washington Post, 2 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'crabbed.' 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, partly from crabbe crustacean, partly from crabbe crab apple

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of crabbed was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near crabbed

Cite this Entry

“Crabbed.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


crab·​bed ˈkrab-əd How to pronounce crabbed (audio)
: difficult to read or understand
crabbed handwriting
crabbedness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on crabbed

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