adjective, pu·ni·er, pu·ni·est.

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 formspu·ni·ly, adverbpu·ni·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for puny

Contemporary Examples of puny

Historical Examples of puny

  • 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.


    Emile Zola

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

British Dictionary definitions for puny


adjective -nier or -niest

having a small physique or weakly constitution
paltry; insignificant
Derived Formspunily, adverbpuniness, noun

Word Origin for puny

C16: from Old French puisne puisne
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 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