Definition of crabbed in English:

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Pronunciation: /krabd/


1(Of handwriting) ill-formed and hard to decipher.
Example sentences
  • The crabbed handwriting was identical to the one on the note.
  • The painfully familiar Cyrillic letters were crabbed and uneven - as if battered by gales.
  • Thirty-four years after I made this crabbed notation - ‘Mr. Chapman and guest.’
cramped, ill-formed, bad, illegible, unreadable, indecipherable, hieroglyphic;
shaky, spidery
1.1(Of style) contorted and difficult to understand: crabbed legal language
More example sentences
  • His efforts to explore the ethical basis of legal rules goes along with a more crabbed style than is usual with Roman lawyers.
  • The latter has the literary style of a crabbed academic philosophy professor.
  • Well, we had a great time watching this show, and it made Martha's show seemed crabbed and small by comparison.
2Ill-humored: a crabbed, unhappy middle age
More example sentences
  • Why should the capital lose out because the rest of Britain is so crabbed and provincial in its attitude towards newcomers?
  • But if the only way to do it is via a cranky and crabbed dismissal of science, count me out.
  • It's a crabbed, narrow, unforgiving quality that was alive and well particularly for a couple of decades after the war.



Example sentences
  • We thought that would be a better way to ring in the season than, say, crabbedly poking at a deck, angry and alone.
  • He was a crabbedly honest old fellow, and a very skilful hunter.
  • That is why the young are fiery and righteous, and the old crabbedly mutter that there is no new thing under the sun.


Example sentences
  • They differ from earlier work, in a slight crabbedness of hand, a somewhat less generous use of space.
  • Both father and son, in their crabbedness, may be recessionary personalities.
  • The story of a change in a character from arrogance, crabbedness, to that of humility always has appeal.


Middle English (in the sense 'perverse, wayward'): from crab1, because of the crab's sideways gait and habit of snapping, thought to suggest a perverse or irritable disposition.

  • The crab (Old English) is at the root of crabbed. Both original senses, the medieval ‘perverse or wayward’ and the later ‘cantankerous and bad-tempered’, come from aspects of a crab's behaviour, the way it walks sideways and its habit of snapping. Crabby is a later word, also derived from crab. The gambling game craps (early 19th century) may be from crab or crab's eyes, for the lowest throw (two ones) at dice, also known as snake eyes. See also cancer, crayfish

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: crab·bed

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