cantankerous

adjective

can·​tan·​ker·​ous kan-ˈtaŋ-k(ə-)rəs How to pronounce cantankerous (audio)
kən-
: difficult or irritating to deal with
a cantankerous mule
cantankerously adverb
cantankerousness noun

Did you know?

The Origin of Cantankerous Is Mysterious

Cantankerous people are cranky: they’re grumpy and angry and if we think charitably about them for a moment we might consider that they possibly suffer from a health affliction that sours the mood. It’s been speculated that cantankerous is a product of the Middle English contack, meaning “contention,” under the influence of a pair of words: rancorous and cankerous. Rancorous brings the anger and "bitter deep-seated ill will" (as rancor can be understood to mean). And cankerous brings the perhaps understandable foul mood: a cankerous person suffers from painful sores—that is, cankers.

Examples of cantankerous in a Sentence

Contemporaries often found him aloof, standoffish, and cantankerous and his mannerisms and diction inscrutable. Jonathan Spence, New York Review of Books, 22 Oct. 2009
There are those who contend the hockey maven is a cantankerous old coot—rife with unpopular opinions and quick to assert them Rick Harrison, Newsday, 19 Sept. 2004
… it's something ultimately more memorable: a self-portrait of a coolly cantankerous woman, reformed but unrepentant. David Gates, New York Times Book Review, 21 Nov. 1999
In his last years, Harriman was the kind of cantankerous old man who once berated a financial planner by threatening to make him sit in the corner and wear a dunce cap. Bryan Burrough, Vanity Fair, January 1995
a cantankerous old woman who insisted that nothing should ever be allowed to change
Recent Examples on the Web Asked if there’s another side of Carollo beyond his cantankerous public image, Kelley paused. Linda Robertson, Miami Herald, 20 Dec. 2023 Between boardroom backstabbings, hostile takeovers, and cantankerous, aging CEOs, life on Wall Street likely imitates HBO hit Succession every day. Ryan Hogg, Fortune Europe, 24 Jan. 2024 But the cantankerous Cato’s actions are not altruistic. Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel, 17 Jan. 2024 Treat the new global South like a geopolitical opportunity, not a cantankerous old pest. Happymon Jacob, Foreign Affairs, 25 Dec. 2023 The indelible character at the center of his half-hour comedy was most certainly the product of another time, but the reasons why folks believe the cantankerous, middle-aged font of grievances played by Carroll O’Connor would never make it on 21st century screens vary depending on their politics. Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, 7 Dec. 2023 Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, was a cantankerous yet tender family patriarch who endeared himself to millions of viewers despite his regressive views — or perhaps because of them. Daniel Arkin, NBC News, 6 Dec. 2023 Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza The late Jerry Stiller starred as George’s cantankerous father, Frank. Keith Langston, Peoplemag, 23 Nov. 2023 Carrey portrays Ebenezer Scrooge, a cantankerous, greedy old man who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who show him the error of his ways. Keith Langston, Peoplemag, 24 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cantankerous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

perhaps irregular from obsolete contack contention

First Known Use

1772, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cantankerous was in 1772

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Dictionary Entries Near cantankerous

Cite this Entry

“Cantankerous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cantankerous. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

cantankerous

adjective
can·​tan·​ker·​ous kan-ˈtaŋ-k(ə-)rəs How to pronounce cantankerous (audio)
kən-
: difficult or irritating to deal with
cantankerously adverb
cantankerousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on cantankerous

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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