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Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable: disliked her cantankerous landlord.
  • adj. Difficult to handle: "had to use liquid helium, which is supercold, costly and cantankerous” ( Boston Globe).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. given to or marked by an ill-tempered nature, ill-tempered, cranky, surly, crabby.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Perverse; contentious; ugly; malicious.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Given to or marked by ill-tempered contradiction or opposition; contradictory; mulish; contentious; cross; waspish; ill-natured: as, “a cantankerous humour,”

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. stubbornly obstructive and unwilling to cooperate
  • adj. having a difficult and contrary disposition

Etymologies

Perhaps from Middle English contek, dissension (influenced by such words as rancorous and cankerous), from Anglo-Norman contec, possibly from Latin contāctus, past participle of contingere, to touch; see contact.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Perhaps derived from earlier contenkerous, from contentious + rancorous. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Celestino, an anarchist veteran of the Spanish Civil War, lives in cantankerous old age in Paris, complaining to his daughter about their host country, yet not daring to return home for fear of Francoist reprisal.

    Monster of Marriage

  • Republicans politely call him "cantankerous" - at least that's what they say in public.

    Workers Comp Insider

  • By the time Simon dragged ass into the taping, Ellen had some choice gay insults to hurl at him, calling the cantankerous Brit a "prima donna."

    PageOneQ.com Latest

  • Mink has been called cantankerous, difficult, morally superior, selfish and egotistical.

    Yes We Can: Mink Shows How

  • Getty Images Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, who once hosted a foul-mouthed television cooking show, has been called cantankerous and crude.

    Samak Calls for Referendum

  • God forbid the Post reporter should "take sides," as that would violate the Golden Rule of "balance," and the "debate" might turn still more "cantankerous" -- or maybe it would get a bit more edifying, as real debate should be.

    WaPo Article on E-Voting "Debate" Treats Corporate Flacks as Righteous Witnesses

  • He was called cantankerous, which he probably took as a badge of honour.

    Education news, comment and analysis | guardian.co.uk

  • Barnard, best known as the cantankerous Dr. Hogue in 'Doc Hollywood,' co-starred with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the 1998 sequel movie 'The Odd Couple II' and saw his son Doug Hughes win a Tony for directing the play 'Doubt.'

    Lead Stories from AOL

  • Rex learned much of what he knows about the profession from his father, and while his dad was proud to be called cantankerous and rightly hailed as a defensive genius,

    Jets better learn fast the camera is still on - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL Home

  • Roger Brown discusses, among other things, the influence of language on thought, the evolution of speech and the symbolism in sound -- why, for instance, words like "cantankerous" and "mellifluous" seem to sound like what they refer to.

    On Scientific Explorations of Human Nature

Comments

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  • my husband 'Bob' just happened to look over my shoulder and he thought I was looking up a word to describe him!!! LOL how apropos!

    October 22, 2008

  • That’s because you don’t know her as well as I. Ecod! I know every inch about her; and there’s not a more bitter cantankerous toad in all Christendom.
    Goldsmith, She Stoops, II

    January 10, 2007

  • December 10, 2006