[kan-tang-ker-uh s]


disagreeable to deal with; contentious; peevish: a cantankerous, argumentative man.

Origin of cantankerous

1765–75; perhaps variant of earlier *contenkerous, reflecting contentious, rancorous
Related formscan·tan·ker·ous·ly, adverbcan·tan·ker·ous·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for cantankerous

Contemporary Examples of cantankerous

Historical Examples of cantankerous

  • "Well, of all cantankerous cranks he is the worst," he would say with a sigh.

  • Don't be cantankerous, and don't be subtle, because I've been bathing.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • They were the most cantankerous, persistent race you can imagine.

    Be It Ever Thus

    Robert Moore Williams

  • You must have thought me cantankerous, and so I have been sometimes, but always by conviction and on principle.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • It's no wonder he drinks, hitched up to a cantankerous old hyena like that.


    Alice Hegan Rice

British Dictionary definitions for cantankerous



quarrelsome; irascible
Derived Formscantankerously, adverbcantankerousness, noun

Word Origin for cantankerous

C18: perhaps from C14 (obsolete) conteckour a contentious person, from conteck strife, from Anglo-French contek, of obscure origin
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

Word Origin and History for cantankerous

1772, said to be "a Wiltshire word," probably from an alteration (influenced by raucous) of Middle English contakour "troublemaker" (c.1300), from Anglo-French contec "discord, strife," from Old French contechier (Old North French contekier), from con- "with" + teche, related to atachier "hold fast" (see attach). With -ous. Related: Cantankerously; cantankerousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper