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 and CANKEROUS), from Anglo-Norman contec, possibly from Latin contāctus, past participle of contingere, to touch; see CONTACT.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.