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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Yeun gets to spotlight a lot of different sides to Mark’s character in this episode: the petulant son, the vulnerable nerd, the overeager rookie desperate to prove himself, and, finally, the triumphant hero. Oliver Sava, Vulture, "Invincible Premiere Recap: Father Knows Best," 26 Mar. 2021 Eilish’s petulant isolation is merely a new decadent gimmick, far from Rimbaud and Patti Smith. Armond White, National Review, "Billie Eilish’s Teen Angst and Alienation," 24 Mar. 2021 Trump’s petulant, post-Presidency press releases—Give me credit for the coronavirus vaccine! Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "It’s Morning (and Mourning) in Biden’s America," 12 Mar. 2021 Ever self-important and petulant, Summers tried to roll Biden by stalling the $1.9 trillion plan’s momentum. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Larry Summers Is Finally, Belatedly Irrelevant," 5 Feb. 2021 This is more than the frustrated outburst of a petulant woman. Washington Post, "Miya Ponsetto’s apology interview for attacking teen over a lost phone reveals a pattern of behavior," 13 Jan. 2021 Bryant, by contrast, could be alternately charming and petulant, sitting at the back of the team bus with headphones clamped over his ears. David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, "Kobe Bryant’s death shocked L.A. and the world amid ominous start to 2020," 22 Dec. 2020 The chief driver of the post-election contention of the past several weeks is the petulant refusal of one man to accept the verdict of the American people. The Editors, National Review, "Trump’s Disgraceful Endgame," 30 Nov. 2020 Trump’s petulant posturing could be resolved instantly if the Republican leadership has the backbone to say enough is enough. Willie Brown,, "Willie Brown: Newsom only hurt himself by attending fancy restaurant party," 21 Nov. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about petulant

Time Traveler for petulant

Time Traveler

The first known use of petulant was in 1598

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about petulant

Statistics for petulant

Last Updated

30 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Petulant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for petulant



English Language Learners Definition of petulant

disapproving : having or showing the attitude of people who become angry and annoyed when they do not get what they want


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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for petulant

Nglish: Translation of petulant for Spanish Speakers

Comments on petulant

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


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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