March 12, 2012
churlish (adjective)
\CHER-lish\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: rude or grumpy
How do you use it?
Curtis, who had forgotten his lunch and then got lost in the museum, was a bit churlish on the way home from the field trip.
Are you a word wiz?

The adjective "churlish" was formed from the noun "churl." What do you think "ceorl" -- the Old English ancestor of "churl" -- meant?

No need to be grumpy if you chose C! Before the 1100s, "churl" was spelled "ceorl" and it meant "man" or "husband." "Ceorl" also referred to a freeman of the lowest rank in Anglo-Saxon England, and soon after came to mean more generally a peasant. It was commonly thought men without rank who worked the land were vulgar, unlearned, and lacking in social graces. As a result, our word "churl" came to also mean "a rude or grumpy person," the sense most commonly used today. The adjective "churlish" soon followed, first referring to common men, and later to rude or grumpy behavior.
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