What It Means
1 chiefly Southern US and Midland US
a : full of nervous energy : fidgety
c : exuberantly frisky
2 : having or showing a lively aggressiveness : spunky
"She's feisty. She's bawdy. She's bodacious.... She's a bit of a wild child." — Vicki Lawrence, quoted in The New York Magazine, 5 Oct. 2018
"The rise of satellite and cable technology in the nineties created new possibilities for nationally syndicated programs built around feisty, voice-driven pundits." — Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 24 Sept. 2018
Did You Know?
In certain parts of the United States, most notably the South, the noun feist (pronounced to rhyme with heist) refers to a small dog used in hunting small game animals (such as squirrels). Also spelled fice or fyce, it comes from an obsolete term, "fisting hound," that derived from another obsolete term, fist, a verb that once meant "to break wind." The term feisty has come a long way from its flatulent origin, but its small-dog association still seems relevant: the term conveys the spunk and determination that one may associate with a dog that manages to make its presence known (either through its bark or its bite) despite its small size.
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