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 As the emotional child in his family, he was imbued with a streak of petulant darkness, which runs subtly through all of his work. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, "John Mulaney Is Not So Square," 7 Jan. 2020 Of course, adults may wonder why Mr. Curry doesn’t simply evict the bear after the first domestic mishap, but this petulant man is pretty clueless, too. Laurel Graeber, New York Times, "Review: Sweet Bear, Sticky Situation in ‘Paddington Gets in a Jam’," 22 Dec. 2019 True to form, Trump commented furiously on social media, retweeting supporters seemingly at random and sharing petulant memes about the results of the impeachment investigation. Emma Specter, Vogue, "Here’s How Donald Trump—And Others—Reacted to His Impeachment on Twitter," 19 Dec. 2019 Another way, as displayed by Trump’s turn on the Great Lakes, is to focus a bipartisan outrage campaign on a monumental national landmark in a swing state, and pray that the electoral calculus is enough to sway a petulant president. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Cruel Lottery to Save America’s Public Lands," 28 Oct. 2019 When his parentage was first revealed in The Force Awakens, the biggest question was how exactly did Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), our heroes of the Rebellion, wind up with this petulant mini-Vader as a son? Lauren Morgan,, "Everything you need to know about Kylo Ren ahead of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," 2 Dec. 2019 For an emerging superpower, China can seem thin-skinned, and its reactions petulant. New York Times, "American Basketball vs. Chinese Hardball: Guess Who Won," 13 Oct. 2019 The content of Donald Trump’s tweets is not in and of itself very interesting: the expression of a mediocre mind that is high on rage, petulant, and liable to fall for conspiracy theories and flattery. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "The Gospel According to Kanye," 7 Nov. 2019 This is another win-at-all costs situation where yet again some adults are acting like petulant children. Mick Mccabe, Detroit Free Press, "To Chandler Park high school football: Is state playoff worth losing your self-respect?," 24 Oct. 2019

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

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Petulant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for petulant


How to pronounce petulant (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on petulant

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for petulant

Spanish Central: Translation of 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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