Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal.


1. Ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable: disliked her cantankerous landlord.
2. Difficult to handle: "had to use liquid helium, which is supercold, costly and cantankerous" (Brad Pokorny).

[Perhaps from Middle English contek, dissension (influenced by such words as rancorous cankerous), from Anglo-Norman contec, possibly from Latin contāctus, past participle of contingere, to touch; see contact.]

can·tan′ker·ous·ly adv.
can·tan′ker·ous·ness n.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adv.1.cantankerously - in a bad mood; "he answered her cantankerously"
References in periodicals archive ?
In his memoirs published in 1977, cantankerously titled The Great Betrayal, Rhodesia's last white prime minister, Ian Smith, talks about a report he received, while still prime minister, from Rhodesia's National Security Council, that said the US had been alerted to a "communist plot" to seize "the most richly mineralised parts of the world", including Africa, with 'South Africa as the ultimate target".
Cantankerously Ardrey kept maintaining that "Man is a predator whose natural instinct is to kill with a weapon", as he had asserted in all of four books before (especially in The Territorial Imperative 353).
It is important, particularly at this time when the Zimbabwean liberation war history and all other celebratory discourse of the 1970s war have come under cantankerously vituperative criticism from several scholars and organisations in and outside Zimbabwe, "to go back and fetch what [might possibly be forgotten]" (Stewart 2004: 3), that is, the nation-building role of history and the role the 1980s Shona war historical narratives played in this regard.
Played cantankerously by Brian Tree dressed in black doublet and pantaloons striped with gold, a visual reminder of his particular humor, Wasp rants irascibly, stinging people with criticism until he is first put in the stocks and later gets drunk on Ursula's beer.