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

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun orneriness, ornerinesses
Verb None
Adjective ornery
Adverb None

Example Sentences

  • The ornery old man would grumble and complain about everything, refusing to find joy in anything.

  • Her ornery cat would hiss and scratch at anyone who tried to approach it, always in a foul mood.

  • The ornery customer at the store would argue with the staff over minor issues and cause unnecessary conflicts.

  • Despite her best efforts to be kind and helpful, her ornery neighbor would always find a reason to be rude and uncooperative.


The word “ornery” originated in the United States in the early 19th century, primarily in the Southern and Midwestern regions. Its exact etymology is uncertain, but it is believed to be derived from the dialectal pronunciation of “ordinary.” Originally, it referred to something or someone with ordinary or common characteristics. Over time, its meaning evolved to describe a particular kind of temperament or behavior.

Today, “ornery” is commonly used to describe a person who is difficult, stubborn, or ill-tempered. It implies a sense of irritable or contrary behavior, often characterized by a tendency to be uncooperative, grouchy, or prone to anger. It is typically used in informal or colloquial contexts and carries a negative connotation.

The word “ornery” does not have any common prefixes, suffixes, or variations. It is a standalone adjective with a distinct meaning. It is worth noting that the term may have regional variations in pronunciation and usage, particularly in areas where it originated.

Overall, “ornery” is a descriptive term used to convey a person’s cantankerous or contrary nature. It suggests a disposition that is grumpy, unyielding, or difficult to deal with. Its usage allows for a straightforward way to express someone’s irritable or challenging behavior in a casual and relatable manner.