[ fahy-stee ]
/ ˈfaɪ sti /
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adjective, feist·i·er, feist·i·est.
full of animation, energy, or courage; spirited; spunky; plucky: The champion is faced with a feisty challenger.
ill-tempered; pugnacious.
troublesome; difficult: feisty legal problems.
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Origin of feisty

An Americanism dating back to 1895–1900; feist + -y1


feist·i·ly, adverbfeist·i·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does feisty mean?

Feisty is used to describe someone or something that is full of energy or courage. Someone who’s described as feisty usually has a strong will and is unafraid of showing it, even in difficult circumstances or when challenged.

Feisty is also used to describe a person or animal that is ill-tempered: Jack gets feisty when he is tired.

Sometimes feisty is used to describe someone or something that is troublesome: My computer gets feisty whenever the software updates.   

Feisty can be used as a compliment, praising someone’s courage, spiritedness, or pluckiness. Or it can be used somewhat critically, suggesting someone is prone to getting angry. Feisty depends on how someone thinks about the words and actions of the person or thing they think is feisty.

Example: It took hours to catch the feisty puppy who easily outran all of us.

Where does feisty come from?

The first records of feisty come from around around 1900. It was first used in the U.S.. It may be related to the word feist, which is used in the Southern United States to refer to an irritable dog or a mutt. Angry, unfriendly dogs tend to be full of energy, so feisty could imply something is acting similarly. The word is related to the Old English word fīsting, meaning “breaking wind.”

If something or someone is feisty, they have a lot of energy ready to use. They are ready to take on whatever comes next. If you are trying to control or stop a feisty person or animal, you are going to have a challenge.

Scrappy-Doo from the Scooby-Doo cartoon series is an example of an especially feisty character. The pint-sized puppy will take on anything! In fact, the word scrappy is similar in meaning to feisty.

Oftentimes, animals are also called feisty if they disobey or are unfriendly. A fish that struggles against being reeled in might be called a feisty one.

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What are some other forms related to feisty?

  • feistily (adverb)
  • feistiness (noun)

What are some synonyms for feisty?

What are some words that share a root or word element with feisty

What are some words that often get used in discussing feisty?

How is feisty used in real life?

Feisty is used to describe people and animals that have a lot of energy, spirit, or courage.



Try using feisty!

Is feisty used correctly in the following sentence?

The feisty dog spent the whole day laying around and sleeping.

How to use feisty in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for feisty

/ (ˈfaɪstɪ) /

adjective feistier or feistiest informal
lively, resilient, and self-reliant
US and Canadian frisky
US and Canadian irritable

Word Origin for feisty

C19: from dialect feist, fist small dog; related to Old English fīsting breaking wind
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