up·​pi·​ty ˈə-pə-tē How to pronounce uppity (audio)
somewhat old-fashioned : putting on or marked by airs of superiority : arrogant, presumptuous
uppity technicians
a small uppity country
The truth is I am tired every afternoon and there's nothing to be done about it. It's the nature of the disease. A lot of people decide I am bored or indifferent or uppity but at a certain hour of the day my motor cuts off automatically. Flannery O'Connor
somewhat old-fashioned, disparaging + sometimes offensive, see usage paragraph below : aspiring to a rank or position higher than one deserves or is entitled to
In a seller's market for labor, it seems, there is a danger that the help will get uppity. Michael Lind
… a group of senior male executives referred to my staff of predominantly professional women as uppity. Marion E. Gold
We talked as long as I dared. She told me to reverse the charges. It was my call, I said. She laughed and said I was getting uppity. I described Mrs. Burgess, how working for her was hardly like being a servant. Paula Fox
Hagar, with child, despised her mistress and flaunted her pregnancy over her. … Sarah flew upon the uppity servant girl and drove her off into the desert. Joseph Heller
uppitiness noun
or less commonly uppityness
Usage of Uppity

The adjective uppity is an informal, somewhat old-fashioned word. When used to mean "arrogant" or "presumptuous," it is no more offensive than either of these synonyms. In its meaning of "aspiring to a rank or position higher than one deserves or is entitled to" it is decidedly disparaging, the implication of the word being that the one described does not deserve or is not entitled to rise in standing. Beyond this denotation, however, uppity has a long history of being applied to members of racial minorities and especially to Black people. Its association with such uses, and the bigotry they represent, means that when it is used to describe a member of a racial minority it is likely to be considered especially offensive.

Example Sentences

Don't get uppity with me. uppity social climbers who were the biggest snobs in town
Recent Examples on the Web There were some in the UK, and even on this side of the pond, who wanted the queen to assert her authority and slap down her presumptuous grandson and his uppity wife. Kevin Cullen, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Jan. 2020 So was the mayor of Tomsk, his fate a warning to uppity regional politicians. The Economist, 21 Dec. 2019 King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand stripped his official mistress of all her titles and honours for being too uppity. The Economist, 24 Oct. 2019 The John Wayne machismo attitude of Cliff (Brad Pitt), an aging stuntman who defeats the arrogant, uppity Chinese guy harks back to the very stereotypes Bruce was trying to dismantle. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, 17 Aug. 2019 But for a kid in Kentucky, Stonewall—even as recounted by White and others who were there—represented, at best, a kind of aspirational gay life, a bevy of uppity queers fighting for their decidedly unrespectable libidinal community. Michelle Tea, Harper's magazine, 22 June 2019

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

Word History


probably from up + -ity (as in persnickity, variant of persnickety)

First Known Use

1880, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of uppity was in 1880

Dictionary Entries Near uppity

Cite this Entry

“Uppity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uppity. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition



up·​pi·​ty ˈəp-ət-ē How to pronounce uppity (audio)
: acting as if better or more important than others : arrogant

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