The word cantankerous first emerged in the middle of the eighteenth century. It was said to have originated in Wiltshire County slang in the United Kingdom, from the word contenkerous. This was either a portmanteau of contentious and rancorous or from the Middle English word contankour, meaning "troublemaker" (this could have changed spelling due to influence from either raucous or rancorous). I'll focus here on the latter possibility: contankour came from the Anglo-Norman word contec, which meant "discord", and that's from Old French contechier, which was composed out of the prefix con-, meaning "with", and the verb atachier, "to hold fast". The idea was that discord arises from stubborness, I suppose. After peaking in the year 1953, usage of the word cantankerous over time sort of levelled off.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.