Where does the word “Cantankerous” come from and What does Cantankerous mean?

We must thank Oliver Goldsmith for developing the word cantankerous from an older source.

In She Stoops to Conquer, he proclaims, “There’s not a more bitter cantanckerous road in all christendom,” meaning that the road would try one’s soul, is perverse, contrary, ill natured.

Apparently Goldsmith dug up a word of similar meaning, long since obsolete or surviving only in country speech, contecker, a person who “contecks,” quarrels, disputes, is contentious.

But whatever his source, he gave us a mighty useful word.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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