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

  • adj. Irritable and perverse in disposition; ill-tempered.
  • adj. Difficult to understand; complicated.
  • adj. Difficult to read; cramped: crabbed handwriting.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Bad-tempered or cantankerous.
  • adj. Cramped, bent.
  • adj. Crowded together and difficult to read.
  • v. Simple past tense and past participle of crab.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Characterized by or manifesting, sourness, peevishness, or moroseness; harsh; cross; cynical; -- applied to feelings, disposition, or manners.
  • adj. Characterized by harshness or roughness; unpleasant; -- applied to things.
  • adj. Obscure; difficult; perplexing; trying.
  • adj. Cramped; irregular.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Sour or harsh to the taste.
  • Perverse; cross; peevish; morose; springing from a sour temper or character: as, a crabbed man.
  • Difficult; perplexing; uninviting: as, a crabbed author or subject.
  • Very intricate or irregular; difficult to decipher or understand: as, crabbed handwriting; crabbed characters.

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

  • adj. annoyed and irritable


Middle English, from crabbe, crab (influenced by crab2); see crab1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • The word crabbed has appeared in three New York Times articles in the past year, including on Feb. 23 in the theater review "The Boarders Put the Polish on Eccentric," by Charles Isherwood:

    NYT > Home Page

  • And then I wanted some day to take your children on my knee and hear them call the crabbed old monk Uncle Kieth.”

    Flappers and Philosophers

  • And then I wanted some day to take your children on my knee and hear them call the crabbed old monk Uncle Kieth. "

    Flappers and Philosophers

  • This can be described as crabbed, misbegotten, petty technicality.

    A History of American Law

  • Conscience -- as the boys called the crabbed old quaker, that's dead now -- they three used to go to the poor-house when your father was there, and get round his bed, and talk to him for all the world as Eliphaz,

    The Confidence-Man

  • _ That may be called a crabbed reason, for it {329} goes backward like a crab.

    A Budget of Paradoxes, Volume II (of II)

  • The "crabbed" data on hourly earnings should be replaced with data on all employees and include all wage/salary/benefit disbursements.

    Review of Gene Epstein, Econospinning

  • Carnanton, the old-time abode of William Noye, the "crabbed"

    The Cornish Riviera

  • I suppose, in a kind of crabbed way, the crabbed fellow was fond of Phyllis.

    The Red Planet

  • One of the rowers in the other boat had "crabbed" his oar and lost it overboard, or the colonel's plan would have succeeded.

    Watch and Wait or The Young Fugitives


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