adjective pet·u·lant \ˈpe-chə-lənt\

Definition of petulant

  1. 1 :  insolent or rude in speech or behavior

  2. 2 :  characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor :  peevish



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Examples of petulant in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Her tone was petulant and angry.

  6. a petulant and fussy man who is always blaming everyone else for his problems

Did You Know?

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."

Origin and Etymology of petulant

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

First Known Use: 1598

PETULANT Defined for English Language Learners


adjective pet·u·lant \ˈpe-chə-lənt\

Definition of petulant for English Language Learners

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

PETULANT Defined for Kids


adjective pet·u·lant \ˈpe-chə-lənt\

Definition of petulant for Students

  1. :  often in a bad mood :  cross

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