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Cantankerous is a word of uncertain origin, though its definition has steadily remained the same for hundreds of years. We will examine the definition of the word cantankerous, where the term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Cantankerous means ill-humored, irascible, cranky, uncooperative, quarrelsome. Someone who is cantankerous is supremely unpleasant. Related words are cantankerously, cantankerousness. Sometimes the word cantankerous is used in a fond manner, but most often it is used to describe someone who is unpleasant. The word cantankerous can be traced back at least to 1772, to the play She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith: “There’s not a more bitter cantanckerous road in all christendom” As far as the origin of the word, there are several theories. One theory is a confabulation of the Middle English word contakour, which means troublemaker, with the word raucous. Another possible origin is the Old French word contechier, which means firmly held or hold fast. A third possibility is the Irish word cannran, which means grumbling.


Dale is a complicated and often cantankerous woman, and like other members of her family, naturally distrustful of a young white reporter asking questions about Henrietta. (The Houston Chronicle)

He had many friends and social groups, meeting nearly every day at 10 a.m. with the the cantankerous gentlemen of “Roger’s Café” in the Shrewsbury Senior Center where he would visit every morning to exchange tales and each other’s life gifts over coffee or lunch. (The Communty Advocate)

Peter King, the cantankerous Republican congressman from the district, who had invited Sessions and was standing alongside him during the event, interjected to call the protesters “shameful.” (The New Yorker)