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[pech-uh-luh nt] /ˈpɛtʃ ə lənt/
moved to or showing sudden, impatient irritation, especially over some trifling annoyance:
a petulant toss of the head.
Origin of petulant
1590-1600; < Latin petulant- (stem of petulāns) impudent, akin to petere to seek, head for
Related forms
petulantly, adverb
unpetulant, adjective
unpetulantly, adverb
irritable, peevish, fretful, pettish, touchy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for petulant
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A great difficulty or peril changes the petulant spirit into a brave, generous soul.

  • Are you mistress of the petulant, the peevish, and the sullen tone?

  • The grave modesty of the one face, the now petulant, now abashed, now vacant expression of the other.

    Demos George Gissing
  • For the first time, too, there was a petulant vein in his attitude toward me.

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • He was often wilful and petulant, and I used to think him dreadfully insincere.

British Dictionary definitions for petulant


irritable, impatient, or sullen in a peevish or capricious way
Derived Forms
petulance, petulancy, noun
petulantly, adverb
Word Origin
C16: via Old French from Latin petulāns bold, from petulāre (unattested) to attack playfully, from petere to assail
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for petulant

1590s, "immodest, wanton, saucy," from Middle French petulant (mid-14c.), from Latin petulantem (nominative petulans) "wanton, froward, saucy, insolent," present participle of petere "to attack, assail; strive after; ask for, beg, beseech" (see petition (n.)). Meaning "peevish, irritable" first recorded 1775, probably by influence of pet (n.2). Related: Petulantly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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