Irritable, bad-tempered, and easily annoyed; difficult to deal with or handle.


US English

UK English

Part of speech



Ill-tempered, cross, grumpy, surly, cantankerous, irascible


Amiable, pleasant, good-natured, affable, friendly, cordial

Example sentences

  • The old man was known for being ornery and never wanting to cooperate with anyone.
  • The ornery mule refused to budge and had to be prodded several times to get it moving.
  • The ornery dog barked ferociously at anyone who approached the front gate.


The word “ornery” is used to describe someone or something that is irritable, difficult to deal with, or easily annoyed. This word is often used in a playful or humorous manner, although it can also be used in a more serious context to describe someone who is truly difficult to handle. The origins of the word are unclear, but it is thought to have originated in the United States and is commonly used in rural or southern dialects. In its usage, “ornery” often implies a certain stubbornness or resistance to change, making it a useful word for describing those who are set in their ways and difficult to sway