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[pyoo-nee] /ˈpyu ni/
adjective, punier, puniest.
of less than normal size and strength; weak.
unimportant; insignificant; petty or minor:
a puny excuse.
Obsolete. puisne.
Origin of puny
First recorded in 1540-50; spelling variant of puisne
Related forms
punily, adverb
puniness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for puny
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I am ashamed to kill such a puny little dwarf as you seem to be.

    Tanglewood Tales Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Pardon me for inserting these puny details in what I have to say.

    The Old Game Samuel G. Blythe
  • Even we puny creatures can divine something of their birth and death.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • Beauchene asked her as he looked at the pale, puny child on her arm.

    Fruitfulness Emile Zola
  • What could man's law—his proud but puny morality—do to injure her?

  • And he shook his puny fist at the blue vault of heaven—Ajax defying Jupiter.

    Scaramouche Rafael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for puny


adjective -nier, -niest
having a small physique or weakly constitution
paltry; insignificant
Derived Forms
punily, adverb
puniness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old French puisnepuisne
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 puny

1570s, "inferior in rank" (1540s as a noun, "junior pupil, freshman"), from Middle French puisné (Modern French puîné), from Old French puisne "born later, younger, youngest" (12c., contrasted with aisné "first-born"), from puis nez, from puis "afterward" (from Vulgar Latin *postius, from Latin postea "after this, hereafter," from post "after," see post-, + ea "there") + Old French "born," from Latin natus, past participle of nasci "be born" (Old Latin gnasci; see genus). Sense of "small, weak, insignificant" first recorded 1590s. Cf. puisne. Related: Puniness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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