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[awr-nuh-ree] /ˈɔr nə ri/
adjective, ornerier, orneriest. Dialect.
ugly and unpleasant in disposition or temper:
No one can get along with my ornery cousin.
I can't do a thing with that ornery mule.
low or vile.
inferior or common; ordinary.
Origin of ornery
First recorded in 1790-1800; contraction of ordinary
Related forms
orneriness, noun
1. mean, ill-tempered, ill-natured, surly, testy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for orneriest
Historical Examples
  • But this little thing is the orneriest critter I ever run across.

    Ticktock and Jim Keith Robertson
  • It was the trial trip of the orneriest excuse for a car man ever invented.

    Nobody's Child Elizabeth Dejeans
  • And the orneriest little spider knows enough to play dead if you poke him.

    Peggy Raymond's Vacation

    Harriet L. (Harriet Lummis) Smith
  • We're bleedin' an' dyin' an' bein' captured by the orneriest villains outside o' hell—as the feller says.

    Anderson Crow, Detective George Barr McCutcheon
  • I hauled it over here with four of the orneriest mules that ever flapped an ear at white men.


    B. M. Bower
  • It disgusted Tom Sawyer, and he said it was the orneriest, low-downest thing he ever heard of.

    Tom Sawyer, Detective Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • An' didn't he bring in four of the orneriest cusses that ever lived when they busted the Hart River cache?

  • Yer the orneriest ostrich fur a man of yer keerful eddication!

    Old Gorgon Graham George Horace Lorimer
British Dictionary definitions for orneriest


adjective (US & Canadian, dialect or informal)
stubborn or vile-tempered
low; treacherous: an ornery trick
Derived Forms
orneriness, noun
Word Origin
C19: alteration of ordinary
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for orneriest



1816, American English dialectal contraction of ordinary (adj.). "Commonplace," hence "of poor quality, coarse, ugly." By c.1860 the sense had evolved to "mean, cantankerous." Related: Orneriness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for orneriest



Mean and irascible; ill-tempered: He wasconfident and ornery on the mound

[1816+; fr a dialect pronunciation of ordinary]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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