adjective, or·ner·i·er, or·ner·i·est. Dialect.

  1. ugly and unpleasant in disposition or temper: No one can get along with my ornery cousin.
  2. stubborn: I can’t do a thing with that ornery mule.
  3. low or vile.
  4. inferior or common; ordinary.

adjective US and Canadian dialect, or informal

  1. stubborn or vile-tempered
  2. low; treacherousan ornery trick
  3. ordinary

adj.1816, American English dialectal contraction of ordinary (adj.). “Commonplace,” hence “of poor quality, coarse, ugly.” By c.1860 the sense had evolved to “mean, cantankerous.” Related: Orneriness.

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