If someone is cantankerous he has a difficult disposition. Take care not to throw your ball into the yard of the cantankerous old man down the street — he'll cuss you out and keep your ball.

The origin of cantankerous is unclear (it may be at least partly from Middle English contek 'dissension'), but ever since it first appeared in plays from the 1770s, it's been a popular way to describe someone who is quarrelsome and disagreeable. It is usually applied to people, but stubborn animals like mules are also described as cantankerous. Events can be cantankerous too, like a cantankerous debate. Some synonyms are cranky, bad-tempered, irritable, irascible.

Definitions of cantankerous
  1. adjective
    stubbornly obstructive and unwilling to cooperate
    synonyms: bloody-minded
    obstinate, stubborn, unregenerate
    tenaciously unwilling or marked by tenacious unwillingness to yield
  2. adjective
    having a difficult and contrary disposition
    “"a cantankerous and venomous-tongued old lady"- Dorothy Sayers”
    synonyms: crotchety, ornery
    having an irritable and unpleasant disposition
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘cantankerous'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up cantankerous for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer