adjective, or·ner·i·er, or·ner·i·est. Dialect.
  1. ugly and unpleasant in disposition or temper: No one can get along with my ornery cousin.
  2. stubborn: I can't do a thing with that ornery mule.
  3. low or vile.
  4. inferior or common; ordinary.

Origin of ornery

First recorded in 1790–1800; contraction of ordinary
Related formsor·ner·i·ness, noun

Synonyms for ornery

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for orneriest

Historical Examples of orneriest

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for orneriest


adjective US and Canadian dialect, or informal
  1. stubborn or vile-tempered
  2. low; treacherousan ornery trick
  3. ordinary
Derived Formsorneriness, noun

Word Origin for ornery

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

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