peevish

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English pevische, pevisse, pevysse, peivesshe, also peyuesshe, peeuish, of obscure origin. Perhaps from Middle English pew, pue (a plaintive cry, the cry of a bird), equivalent to pue +‎ -ish. Cognate with Scots pevis, pevess, pevych, pevach (peevish), Scots pew, peu (to cry in a plaintive manner). See pue

Alternative etymology derives Middle English peyvesshe "capricious, silly", as a possible corruption of Latin perversus "perverted". The meaning "fretful" develops in the 16th century.

Pronunciation[edit]

Adjective[edit]

peevish (comparative more peevish, superlative most peevish)

  1. Constantly complaining; fretful, whining.
    • circa 1599, William Shakespeare, King Henry V, act 3, sc. 7:
      Orleans: What a wretched and peevish fellow is this king of England, to mope with his fat-brained followers so far out of his knowledge!
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ch. 41:
      [T]he luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repining at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent was peevish.
    • 1917, P. G. Wodehouse, "The Mixer" in The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories:
      At first he was quite peevish. "What's the idea," he said, "coming and spoiling a man's beauty-sleep? Get out."

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