Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Cantankerous

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is cantankerous. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

cantankerous person is often angry and annoyed. Cantankerous also means “difficult or irritating to deal with.”

// Several sportswriters cited the coach’s cantankerous personality as a reason for the team’s poor performance and lack of motivation.


“The episode centers around the Daffodil Ball, a magnificent cow, and a cantankerous pig. I would also be cantankerous if veterinarians who hadn’t even passed their exams were chasing me around with a scalpel.” — Alice Burton, Vulture, 16 Jan. 2022

Did You Know?

Cantankerous people are cranky: they’re grumpy and angry and if we think charitably about them for a moment we might consider that they possibly suffer from a health affliction that sours the mood. It’s been speculated that cantankerous is a product of the Middle English contack, meaning “contention,” under the influence of a pair of words: rancorous and cankerousRancorous brings the anger and “bitter deep-seated ill will” (as rancor can be understood to mean). And cankerous brings the perhaps understandable foul mood: a cankerous person suffers from painful sores—that is, cankers.

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