Definitions

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

  • adj. Unreasonably irritable or ill-tempered; peevish.
  • adj. Contemptuous in speech or behavior.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. childishly irritable
  • adj. forward; pert; insolent; wanton.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Forward; pert; insolent; wanton.
  • adj. Capriciously fretful; characterized by ill-natured freakishness; irritable.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Manifesting peevish impatience, irritation, or caprice; peevishly pert or saucy; peevish; capricious: said of persons or things: as, a petulant youth; a petulant answer.
  • Synonyms Petulant, Peevish, Fretful, Pettish, Cross, irritable, irascible, ill-humored, snappish, crusty, choleric. The first five words apply to an ill-governed temper or its manifestation. Petulant expresses a quick impatience, often of a temporary or capricious sort, with bursts of feeling. Peevish expresses that which is more permanent in character, more frequent in manifestation, more sour, and more an evidence of weakness. Fretful applies to one who is soon vexed, of a discontented disposition, or ready to complain, as a sick child. Pettish implies that the impatience, vexation, or testiness is over matters so small that the mood is peculiarly undignified or unworthy. Cross applies especially to the temper, but often to permanent character: as, a cross dog; it often includes anger or sulkiness. Crossness as a mood may be more quiet than the others. See captious.

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

  • adj. easily irritated or annoyed

Etymologies

Latin petulāns, petulant-, insolent, from petere, to assail; see pet- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French, from Latin petulans, akin to petere. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Hm. "Petulant" is actually a meaner word than it sounds.

    January 17, 2012

  • A wig in this heat. Oh, hell. I tried not to look petulant. After all, it would be better to have an itchy head than to be identified as a woman who associated with vampires. -Charlaine Harris, Living Dead in Dallas

    December 11, 2010

  • July 30, 2008

  • petulant: impatient.
    petulante: vane.

    January 10, 2008