1. disagreeable to deal with; contentious; peevish:
a cantankerous, argumentative man.
Cantankerous sounds as apt in sound and meaning as honk or boom. One earlier spelling of the word is contankerous, which suggests its development from Middle English contak, conteke “quarrel, disagreement,” from which are formed contecker, contekour “one who causes dissension.” An unattested adjective conteckerous, contakerous could have been formed on the models of traitorous or rancorous or contentious. Cantankerous entered English in the 18th century.
“Yes, Thomas, you are an extremely cantankerous man to work with–I know that to my cost. You disregard everything that you ought to have consideration for.”
- Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, translated by R. Farquharson Sharp, 1911