pu·​ny | \ˈpyü-nē \
punier; puniest

Definition of puny 

: slight or inferior in power, size, or importance : weak

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Other Words from puny

punily \ ˈpyü-​nə-​lē \ adverb
puniness \ ˈpyü-​nē-​nəs \ noun

Examples of puny in a Sentence

I wouldn't mess with him—he makes bodybuilders look puny in comparison. We laughed at their puny attempt to trick us.

Recent Examples on the Web

What’s clinically denoted by the word ‘bi-polarity’ is something puny compared to what’s brandished by Sabbath. The Economist, "Philip Roth was one of America’s greatest novelists," 23 May 2018 Or even one of those weird, puny, overcooked Kix bits found at the bottom of the cereal box. Marci Robin, Allure, "Beauty Mark Makeover: Why I Chose to Reduce the Size of My Mole Instead of Getting It Removed," 13 July 2018 Gear: rear-entry Salomon boots, puny Rossignol slalom skis, and bindings cranked to eleven. Nick Paumgarten, Outside Online, "Nick Paumgarten on the Thrill of His First Daffy," 11 July 2018 This act — this graceless, puny act — insults both the democratic ideal and the sporting ideal. Marcus Hayes, Philly.com, "Trump dumps Eagles because, to him, size matters | Marcus Hayes," 4 June 2018 But India’s e-commerce market as a whole is worth a puny $15bn or so, compared with nearly $500bn in America and double that in China. The Economist, "Walmart takes a second shot at the Indian market," 9 May 2018 Friends and stuff: Despite the muscularity and ruggedness (or perhaps because of it), rear-seat passengers are limited to the puny. Scott Sturgis, Philly.com, "BMW X3 gets a redesign for 2018," 28 June 2018 The overall result, bosses grumble, is that American firms are puny in China, making 4% of their global sales there. The Economist, "America Inc and the rage against Beijing," 28 June 2018 The ivy that snaked across the bookshelf and over the desk had started out as a miserable thing, cut back by a patient and given to Flaherty as both a prop and a gift: Its puny sprouts were meant to symbolize how ravaged the patient felt. Eric Boodman, STAT, "It’s not ‘all in your head’: When other doctors give up on patients, a boundary-breaking neurologist treats them," 19 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of puny

circa 1577, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for puny

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

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The first known use of puny was circa 1577

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English Language Learners Definition of puny

: small and weak

: not very large, impressive, or effective


pu·​ny | \ˈpyü-nē \
punier; puniest

Kids Definition of puny

1 : small and weak in size or power

2 : not very impressive or effective My boss gave me a puny raise.

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Comments on puny

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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