pet·​u·​lant | \ ˈpe-chə-lənt How to pronounce petulant (audio) \

Definition of petulant

1 : insolent or rude in speech or behavior
2 : characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor : peevish

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Other Words from petulant

petulantly adverb

Petulant Has Latin Roots

Petulant is one of many English words that are related to the Latin verb petere, which means "to go to," "to attack," "to seek," or "to request." "Petere" is a relative of the Latin adjective petulans ("impudent"), from which "petulant" was derived. Some other words with connections to "petere" are "compete" and "appetite." "Competere," the Late Latin precursor to "compete," is a combination of the prefix com- and the verb "petere." The joining of ad- and petere led to "appetere" ("to strive after"), and eventually to Latin appetitus, the source of our "appetite." Additional descendants of "petere" are "petition," "perpetual," and "impetus."

Examples of petulant in a Sentence

Oxford's denial of her [Margaret Thatcher's] honorary degree in 1984 was no petulant fluke but an accurate measure of her unpopularity with the whole profession. — Harold Perkin, Times Literary Supplement, 26 June 1992 In the hot, petulant little cockpit she was triumphant—drunk with anger, defiance, and the beginnings of relief. — Sebastian Faulks, Independent on Sunday (London), 25 Nov. 1990 Sometimes, under … rapid-fire questioning, he became petulant and quibbled over words in a way that suggested a close reading of the law. — Frances FitzGerald, New Yorker, 16 Oct. 1989 Mouth petulant but its hardness in it, behind it. Looking at that mouth you felt her teeth in you … — Jayne Anne Phillips, Black Tickets, (1975) 1979 Her tone was petulant and angry. a petulant and fussy man who is always blaming everyone else for his problems
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Recent Examples on the Web But Watson was frequently criticized for petulant outbursts directed at his caddie, who defended his boss every time. Eamon Lynch, USA TODAY, 5 Oct. 2021 Andelin, another Southern California Mormon, wrote that wives should manipulate their husbands by acting like petulant children. The Salt Lake Tribune, 16 Sep. 2021 Petty played Kit, a petulant pitcher who rode her sister Dottie’s coattails into the league only to show her big sis who had game. Shannon Carlin, Vulture, 20 Aug. 2021 Her brightly colored, slightly wonky figures seem the work of a brilliant child; a bird alights on a branch with a shocked expression; a pig seems defiantly petulant. New York Times, 19 Aug. 2021 But in just seven months since leaving office, the petulant Trump — who always aims for the top — has already bested his 44 predecessors in one way, building a strong case for conducting the most malign post-presidency in history. Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2021 In Killing Eve, based on Luke Jennings' Codename Villanelle e-books, Oh plays Eve, a refreshingly normal M15 officer who becomes obsessed with finding Comer's Villanelle, a wildly confident, often petulant, probably psychopathic killer. Christopher Ros, Glamour, 12 Aug. 2021 The 36-year-old McCain could sound a scathingly petulant 16, or an irreparably curmudgeonly 76. Washington Post, 6 Aug. 2021 And if walking out on their state obligations changes the political dynamics and blocks the passage of these measures, Democrats will be happy to be considered petulant politicians. James Moore, CNN, 15 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'petulant.' 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 petulant

1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for petulant

Latin or Middle French; Middle French, from Latin petulant-, petulans; akin to Latin petere to go to, attack, seek — more at feather

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Time Traveler for petulant

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The first known use of petulant was in 1598

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Last Updated

8 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Petulant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for petulant



English Language Learners Definition of petulant

: having or showing the attitude of people who become angry and annoyed when they do not get what they want


pet·​u·​lant | \ ˈpe-chə-lənt How to pronounce petulant (audio) \

Kids Definition of petulant

: often in a bad mood : cross

More from Merriam-Webster on petulant

Nglish: Translation of petulant for Spanish Speakers


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