: something (such as one's manners) that one should be mindful of
better watch his p's and q's when I get a six-gun of my ownJean Stafford
: best behavior
being on her p's and q's for two solid days was too muchGuy McCrone

Word History


from the phrase mind one's p's and q's, alluding to the difficulty a child learning to write has in distinguishing between p and q

First Known Use

1779, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of p's and q's was in 1779

Dictionary Entries Near p's and q's

Cite this Entry

“P's and q's.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/p%27s%20and%20q%27s. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

p's and q's

: something (as manners) that one should be careful about
always minded my p's and q's around my aunts and uncles

More from Merriam-Webster on p's and q's

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!