adjective pu·ny \ ˈpyü-nē \
Updated on: 3 Dec 2017

Definition of puny

punier; puniest
: slight or inferior in power, size, or importance : weak


play \ˈpyü-nə-lē\ adverb


play \ˈpyü-nē-nəs\ noun

Examples of puny in a Sentence

  1. I wouldn't mess with him—he makes bodybuilders look puny in comparison.

  2. We laughed at their puny attempt to trick us.

Recent Examples of puny from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of puny

Anglo-French puisné younger, weakly, literally, born afterward, from puis afterward + born

puny Synonyms

bantam, diminutive, dinky, dwarfish, fine, half-pint, Lilliputian, little, pint-size (or pint-sized), pocket, pocket-size (also pocket-sized), small, pygmy, shrimpy, slight, smallish, subnormal, toylike, undersized (also undersize)
big, biggish, considerable, goodly, grand, great, handsome, husky, king-size (or king-sized), large, largish, outsize (also outsized), overscale (or overscaled), oversize (or oversized), sizable (or sizeable), substantial, tidy, whacking, whopping
Related Words
dwarf, toy; runtish, runty, scrubby, stunted; bitty, inappreciable, infinitesimal, little bitty, micro, microscopic (also microscopical), mini, miniature, miniaturized, minikin, minim, minuscule, minute, pinpoint, teensy, teensy-weensy, teeny, teeny-weeny, tiny, wee, weeny (also weensy); meager (or meagre), niggardly, poor, scant, scanty, scarce, skimp, skimpy, slender, slim, spare, sparse, stingy; deficient, inadequate, insufficient, lacking, wanting; bite-size (also bite-sized), capsule
Near Antonyms
bulky, hefty, hulking, massive, voluminous; boxcar, Brobdingnagian, Bunyanesque, cavernous, colossal, cyclopean, elephantine, enormous, galactic, gargantuan, giant, gigantic, gross, Himalayan, herculean, heroic (also heroical), huge, humongous (also humungous), immense, jumbo, leviathan, mammoth, monolithic, monstrous, monumental, mountainous, pharaonic, prodigious, staggering, stupendous, titanic, tremendous, vast; abundant, ample, appreciable, bountiful, copious, generous, healthy, liberal, plenteous, plentiful; fat, thick; broad, wide; boundless, cosmic (also cosmical), immeasurable, incalculable, infinite; adequate, enough, sufficient

PUNY Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of puny for English Language Learners

  • : small and weak

  • : not very large, impressive, or effective

PUNY Defined for Kids


adjective pu·ny \ ˈpyü-nē \

Definition of puny for Students

punier; puniest
1 : small and weak in size or power
2 : not very impressive or effective
  • My boss gave me a puny raise.

History for puny

In medieval French puisné, literally, “born afterward,” was used to mean “younger” when talking about two people. Borrowed into English, puisne and the phonetic spelling puny came to be used of anyone in a position of less importance than another. By the time of the playwright William Shakespeare puny no longer suggested relative rank, but had come to mean “weak” or “feeble”—a meaning the word retains today.

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