Bad-tempered, quarrelsome, or grumpy


US English

UK English

Part of Speech



cranky, irritable, surly, grouchy, peevish, ill-tempered


cheerful, happy, pleasant, good-natured, amiable, affable

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun None
Verb None
Adjective cantankerous
Adverb cantankerously

Example Sentences

  • The cantankerous old man, always grumbling and complaining, made it difficult to enjoy family gatherings.

  • The cantankerous neighbor would yell at anyone who dared to step foot on his lawn.

  • The cantankerous boss constantly berated his employees, creating a hostile work environment.

  • Despite his cantankerous nature, the old cat showed a soft spot for the young kittens.


The word “cantankerous” has a fascinating history and is used to describe individuals who are irritable, argumentative, or easily angered. Its origin can be traced back to the late 18th century, where it was derived from the Middle English word “contakour,” meaning “one who creates discord or controversy.” Over time, “cantankerous” emerged as an adjective to capture the essence of such behavior.

The prefix “can-” in “cantankerous” serves as an intensifier, emphasizing the negative or disagreeable nature of the person being described. The root “-tanker-” is thought to have derived from the Old English word “tanc,” meaning “contention” or “dispute.” This combination reflects the inclination towards discord or argumentation that defines a cantankerous individual.

The usage of “cantankerous” primarily refers to people who exhibit a grumpy, ill-tempered, or quarrelsome demeanor. Such individuals are often difficult to get along with due to their propensity for starting arguments or engaging in contentious interactions. “Cantankerous” implies a general unwillingness to cooperate, a tendency to find fault with others, and a readiness to engage in conflicts or disputes.

Variations of the word “cantankerous” include the noun form “cantankerousness,” which refers to the state or quality of being cantankerous, and the adverb form “cantankerously,” describing actions or behaviors that are characteristic of cantankerousness.

Understanding the history and usage of “cantankerous” emphasizes the importance of patience, understanding, and effective communication in navigating difficult interpersonal relationships. It serves as a reminder to approach such individuals with empathy and attempt to find common ground, even in the face of disagreement or hostility.