pet·​u·​lant | \ ˈpe-chə-lənt How to pronounce petulant (audio) \

Definition of petulant

1 : insolent or rude in speech or behavior
2 : characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor : peevish

Other Words from petulant

petulantly adverb

Petulant Has Latin Roots

Petulant is one of many English words that are related to the Latin verb petere, which means "to go to," "to attack," "to seek," or "to request." "Petere" is a relative of the Latin adjective petulans ("impudent"), from which "petulant" was derived. Some other words with connections to "petere" are "compete" and "appetite." "Competere," the Late Latin precursor to "compete," is a combination of the prefix com- and the verb "petere." The joining of ad- and petere led to "appetere" ("to strive after"), and eventually to Latin appetitus, the source of our "appetite." Additional descendants of "petere" are "petition," "perpetual," and "impetus."

Examples of petulant in a Sentence

Oxford's denial of her [Margaret Thatcher's] honorary degree in 1984 was no petulant fluke but an accurate measure of her unpopularity with the whole profession. — Harold Perkin, Times Literary Supplement, 26 June 1992 In the hot, petulant little cockpit she was triumphant—drunk with anger, defiance, and the beginnings of relief. — Sebastian Faulks, Independent on Sunday (London), 25 Nov. 1990 Sometimes, under … rapid-fire questioning, he became petulant and quibbled over words in a way that suggested a close reading of the law. — Frances FitzGerald, New Yorker, 16 Oct. 1989 Mouth petulant but its hardness in it, behind it. Looking at that mouth you felt her teeth in you … — Jayne Anne Phillips, Black Tickets, (1975) 1979 Her tone was petulant and angry. a petulant and fussy man who is always blaming everyone else for his problems See More
Recent Examples on the Web James’ performance leans into Henry’s weariness, seeming at times petulant at what he’s being made to endure. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 11 May 2022 Across his first two stops in the N.F.L., Beckham developed a reputation as a petulant but popular receiver, as well known for making absurd catches as proposing to kicking nets, appearing in a Drake video and forcing his way out of town. New York Times, 13 Feb. 2022 The answer is nothing — besides the petulant satisfaction of giving Joe Biden a couple of black eyes. Damon Linker, The Week, 28 Oct. 2021 Jason Sudeikis, an executive producer and recurring player on Detroiters, offered him one of his more unlikable characters to date as petulant billionaire Edwin Akufo on the second season of Ted Lasso. Mikey O'connell, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Jan. 2022 Fearing her mom’s judgment, Sam reverts to a petulant adolescence. Washington Post, 20 Jan. 2022 Even as a youth, Mellencamp had a reputation for being petulant and cocksure. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2022 Of all his actions, which include a history of other dismissive stances toward the pandemic and sometimes petulant outbursts on the court, his behavior after receiving a positive test seems to be what set the world on edge over his moral compass. New York Times, 14 Jan. 2022 To stop prioritizing petulant partisanship over people. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 5 Jan. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of petulant

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for petulant

Latin or Middle French; Middle French, from Latin petulant-, petulans; akin to Latin petere to go to, attack, seek — more at feather

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The first known use of petulant was in 1598

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Petulant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for petulant


pet·​u·​lant | \ ˈpe-chə-lənt How to pronounce petulant (audio) \

Kids Definition of petulant

: often in a bad mood : cross

More from Merriam-Webster on petulant

Nglish: Translation of petulant for Spanish Speakers


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