Word: cantankerous

Pronunciation: kan-TAN-kər-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: bad-tempered, argumentative, and uncooperative

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Today’s Word of the Week was suggested by Kriswasp of I Love Me vol I. He requested I write about the word “cantankerous”, and I’ll be honest: I darn near smacked myself for not having thought to write about it sooner. What an interesting word! Heck, just saying it aloud is fun! “Cantankerous”! Of course, the definition of the word isn’t nearly as pleasant as the sound of it, but if you’re going to call someone “bad-tempered” or “uncooperative”, you may as well go for the most (as Kriswasp puts it) majestic way to say it!

A “cantankerous” person is ill-tempered and argumentative to the point of being difficult. The word arose in the mid 18th century and is of unknown origin, though according to Oxford Dictionaries, it is speculated that it comes from a blend of the Anglo-Irish noun cant “auction” and the English noun “rancor” (“bitterness or resentfulness”), which in turn traces back to the Latin adjective rancidus “stinking”. Another theory states that “cantankerous” may stem from an early amalgamation of two English adjectives: “contentious” (“causing or likely to cause an argument”) and “rancorous” (“characterized by bitterness or resentment”).

While I haven’t yet worked the word “cantankerous” into my own stories very often, I do remember hearing it for the first time years ago and loving how funny it sounded. Most people I’ve seen described as “cantankerous” are elderly and grumpy, but that’s not to say the word can’t be used to describe younger people who are just as uncooperative. If you write characters who tend to argue a lot and who are difficult to work with, “cantankerous” may be a perfect word to fit into your stories! Have fun!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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